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‘Break the cycle of poverty’: Northeast Syria facing severe water crisis, UN says

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Northeast Syria is facing a severe water crisis which has caused widespread disruption to irrigation systems, food production and power generation, as well as a shortage in drinking water, the United Nations said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is clear to me, having visited and spoken to communities both in and out of camps, that the path of early recovery and resilience we are pursuing is the right one,” said the UN’s Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator (RC/HC) for Syria, Imran Riza, following his four-day visit to northeast Syria.

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“Without sustained access to services and livelihoods, it will not be possible for families to break the cycle of poverty and crisis and live their lives in dignity,” he added.

Riza visited several camps for internally displaced persons, including the Areesha camp in al-Hasakeh and Mahmoudi in Ar-Raqqa where he spoke to the camps’ residents to better understand their needs.

The Areesh camp population is estimated to be around 14,526 people, 85 percent of whom and women and children.

The Mahmoudi camp has almost 9,000 people, 81 percent women and children.

In his visits to al-Roj and al-Hol camps – which have around 2,500 and 56,000 people respectively, almost all of which are women and children – Riza advocated for moves to encourage the return of internally displaced Syrians. He called for UN member states who have women and children in these camps to urgently address the matter and repatriate those who wish to go back to their countries.

There have been reports of increasing levels of violence among the resident population in al-Hol, he noted.

So far this year, at least 26 people have been murdered in the camp, including three this week, 20 of whom were women.

Criminality, gender-based violence and attacks against humanitarian workers are also commonplace in the camp, a statement carried by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, adding that although the humanitarian community has developed a strategy to address these issues, it is severely underfunded by around $45 million.

Against this worrying backdrop, Riza also expressed concern over the recent uptick in military activity in the north which has recently included drone strikes and shelling, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.

He warned that continued military action will lead to further internal displacements.

He urged all parties involved in the humanitarian community to take all necessary precautions needed to avoid further hostilities, reminding them of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law.

Riza said a political solution is needed to somehow reduce military operations taking place in the area, and “much more” humanitarian assistance.

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