Health risks in Türkiye and Syria due to lack of functional water and sanitation systems

17 Feb 2023 by The Water Diplomat

The earthquake that struck in Türkiye and Syria on the 6th of February has destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure in a wide region. Since then, areas in both countries affected by the earthquake are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

In a media release on the 13th of February, Marielle Snel, the Senior Global Humanitarian Waster, Sanitation and Hygiene advisor for Save the Children, stated:

“People in the earthquake-affected areas urgently need safe drinking water and latrines. It’s challenging as water pipes are broken. Once the latrines are in place, waste needs to be safely disposed of to avoid risk of waterborne and vector-borne diseases.

“Sanitation facilities need to be built in a way that considers the safety of women and girls. There needs to be adequate privacy and lighting so they can use facilities without feeling unsafe.”

Save the Children aims to reach a total of 1.6 million people in both Syria and Türkiye, of which 675,000 children. The majority of these (1.1 million) are located in Syria.  

In total it is estimated by the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) that 8.8 million people have been affected by the earthquake in Syria. The damage has been the worst in the north west of the country, with more than 4.2 million people affected in Aleppo and 3 million in Idlib. The village of Al Taloul, Syria, was swept after a dam was destroyed and flooded the village.

The UN has estimated that some US $ 397.6 million will be needed over the coming three months to respond to the most urgent needs. The funds would be dedicated - amongst others - to essential water and sanitation items as well as to light repairs and rehabilitation to restore health, water and sanitation services.  

The ICRC has been responding to urgent needs in Aleppo, Latakia and Tartous, with amongst others the provision of emergency trucked water supplies for households. Public service provision in Syria was already under strain: some 15.3 million people in Syria were already assessed to require humanitarian assistance this year before the earthquake struck in 2023.

In Türkiye, a million people are believed to be living in temporary shelters. The World Health Organisation has also expressed concern over emerging health issues linked to the cold weather, water, hygiene and sanitation, and the spread of infectious diseases.