Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Bringing Water Back to Idlib

Damaged infrastructure is being restored, transforming the daily lives of thousands of people.
By Maha al-Ahmad
  • A sewage network is installed in Kfar Nabel. (Photo: Maha al-Ahmad)
    A sewage network is installed in Kfar Nabel. (Photo: Maha al-Ahmad)

Farid has spent the past four years lived in a neighbourhood where the water infrastructure was close to complete breakdown. 

“Public services in liberated areas had deteriorated incredibly. They were almost non-existent in my neighbourhood,” the 55 year-old said.

Farid explained that the damaged drains meant that most basements and roads in his area flooded during winter.

When he heard that the Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) organisation was carrying out a sewage and sanitation project in Idlib and its countryside, Farid decided to approach them. He was promised that repair works would be carried out in his neighbourhood very soon.

Maher Khalouf, executive director of PAH in Idlib, told Damascus Bureau that the organisation was repairing and maintaining sewage systems in Idlib and its countryside, Hama’s northern countryside and Aleppo’s countryside.

“PAH also carries out other humanitarian projects, such as supplying the internally displaced with food baskets and hygiene kits, supplying wheat flour to bakeries, building waste landfills, and rehabilitating water wells,” he continued.

“We recently completed a well restoration project in the city of Binnish. The well now serves 400 families who were forced to buy water for exorbitant prices before the renovation process.”

PAH is currently carrying out a similar project in the village of Hazarin, southwest of Kfar Nabel. Onc

e the restoration is complete, villagers will be spared the trouble of travelling to nearby villages to buy water.

According to Khalouf, PAH selected its projects based on a bidding process. Contractors or suppliers were invited to submit proposals supported by documents detailing their previous projects, in addition to an overview of their capacity to carry out the scheme.

The information was then reviewed in collaboration with the area’s local council.

Mahmoud Khatib, head of external relations at Kfar Nabel’s local council, told Damascus Bureau that PAH was one of the most prominent organisations focusing on service projects in liberated areas.

“Kfar Nabel’s sewage network had been in very bad shape before the revolution, and the government had approved a request to replace the entire network. However, when the revolution erupted the project was put on hold until further notice,” the 36 year-old said.

Khatib explained that the local council and PAH were in the process of renovating the drains and pipes of the entire city. The project will cost 650,000 US dollars and is expected to take just 45 days.

Another PAH scheme involves delivering water to the internally displaced. Mahmoud Mirsal, 34, monitors these projects, ensuring contractors deliver the correct amount of water to refugees according to a set programme.

One contractor named Khalid delivers 200 tanks of water to refugee camps in villages west of Idlib each day. He also distributes hygiene kits containing various types of detergents each month.

“Health awareness teams also conduct regular visits to the internally displaced and provide them with vital information on how to prevent diseases, particularly water borne diseases,” said 30 year-old Khalid.

One internally displaced woman who has benefited from PAH’s work is 45 year-old Rajaa. The mother of six sought refuge in Abu al-Walid camp in early 2015 when she was forced to flee her village of Al-Tuwaina.

Rajaa said that when the family first moved into the camp they had a tough time as it had no sewage system and water was scarce. Fortunately, the PAH organisation soon installed toilets in the camp and tanks outside tents that provided residents with running water.

Rajaa’s eldest son Wael, 15, told Damascus Bureau that PAH had also repaired the toilets in his school and many other schools.

Maha al-Ahmad is the pseudonym of a Damascus Bureau contributor from Kfar Nabel, Syria.

This story was produced by Syria Stories (previously Damascus Bureau), IWPR’s news platform for Syrian journalists. 

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