Civilians in the city of Aleppo are undergoing enormous suffering because of deliberate cuts to water and electricity supplies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
About two million people live in the Syrian city but many, on both sides of the frontlines, are having severe difficulty in accessing water, the organisation said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Vital services for the people, such as the water supply, must be kept away from the politics of the Syrian conflict,” said the head of the ICRC delegation in Syria, Marianne Gasser.
The water supply in Aleppo depends on the operation of pumping and electricity stations but each is controlled by different warring parties.
The operation of the stations is often used in a way to put pressure on the other side.
“Too often in Syria, water becomes a tool in the hands of fighting parties. It becomes a weapon of war. And it is civilians who suffer the most. Access to water should be unconditional,” said Gasser.
Once home to almost 2.5 million residents and considered Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been divided between government and opposition control since shortly after fighting there began in mid-2012.
Al Jazeera’s Omar Yousef, reporting from Aleppo, said water has been cut in both government and rebel-held areas for more than a month and that the different sides continue to trade blame over who is responsible for the lack of water.
A similar situation exists in the capital Damascus, where cutting the water supply has been used as a tactic to by warring parties to exert pressure on the other side, ICRC said.
Five years of conflict have severely affected the country’s water infrastructure, with as much as half of the total production capacity lost or damaged.
Between January and June 2015, 16 million people across Syria benefited from water projects organised by the ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.