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FLASH ALERT: SYRIAN WATER CRISIS

Team: Jade Patel, Benjamin Maher, Alyssa Schmidt, Emergency Management, Health and Hazards (EMH2)

Week of: Monday, October 4, 2021


Syrian Areas Impacted by Water Crisis[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for the ongoing water crisis in northern Syria that has put millions of people at risk of poor health and mortality. Conflict has resulted in water infrastructures left untreated and damaged, almost certainly increasing the risk of contamination and creating emerging threats to health that are becoming dire and imminent.


CTG is on HIGH alert due to the prevailing Syrian water crisis that is likely to impact over 12 million people’s access to clean water throughout 2021 and into 2022. With an untreated water supply, it is likely that people will develop fatal waterborne illnesses if relying on only unsanitized water. Without alternative clean water supplies and access to medications, millions of lives are at risk.

Over the past decade, Syria has been engaged in a complex conflict with several actors that has exacerbated a struggling economy, increased unemployment, and decreased the nation’s capacity to support the progression of critical infrastructure.[2] It is likely that the deteriorating infrastructure will be impacted by Syria’s rising temperatures, record levels of low rainfall, and drought, causing civilian access to agricultural water supplies and drinking water to lessen.[3] Food shortages and lack of access to other means of survival will very likely increase malnutrition, disease, and fatality rates. Food shortages will likely occur due to a lack of capacity for agricultural operations, and disease is likely to spread due to civilians resorting to the use of unsanitized water supplies from degenerating infrastructures such as water tanks and pipelines. Due to the ongoing conflict, it is unlikely long-term plans for critical infrastructure can be addressed. Short-term access to aid and water supplies would almost certainly help combat the risks aggravated by weather and violence.


Public access to water is a critical component of daily life, with water being used for drinking, domestic use, food production, and recreational purposes. Unsanitized water is likely to expose civilians to preventable health risks through contamination; contaminated water and poor sanitation correlate to increased transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio.[4] As access to water lessens, civilians will very likely begin prioritizing its usage, resulting in decreased common sanitary measures such as washing hands and eating surfaces which will almost certainly increase the risk of other diseases spreading such as COVID-19. Syria has struggled to maintain clean water through safe infrastructure even when it was available, with diarrheal disease, which depletes body fluids, being a leading killer in Syria.[5] The number of fatalities from diarrhea and similar illnesses will likely increase as the access to clean water decreases. Many diseases caused by contaminated water are treatable, but with ongoing violence, decreased transport capacity, and decreased medicine availability, it is unlikely the issue can be mitigated by raising awareness and access to treatments.


Successful emergency management is likely to be unachievable due to the number of people over a large land area. It is very likely that domestic and international humanitarian aid will be shared and likely prioritized to certain communities, leaving hard-to-reach areas without. Sharing resources is likely to create domestic tensions and could increase the risk of violence, delaying emergency management and likely disrupting contingency plans. With multiple hazards and health concerns alongside the ongoing water crisis, it is very likely that ongoing emergency management may be struggling financially and not able to offer support within Syria. It is also likely that international aid may be hard to attain or sustain because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


CTG recommends that humanitarian assistance is reviewed and implemented immediately in accessible areas to begin alleviating the water crisis. Wateraid and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are advised to assess alternative measures to sustaining clean water within Syria to decrease the risk of mass mortality. For more detailed information, such as a Threat Assessment report, or more tailored reports to specific threats, contact us at info@counterterrorismgroup.com.


CTG assesses that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY that the lack of access to clean water may cause further concerns to the safety and welfare of communities across Syria. The increased threat of waterborne disease and dehydration is very likely to leave millions in fatal situations, and contribute to the worst humanitarian crisis to date. It is very likely that further medical complications could arise if this crisis remains untreated. It is critical that sanitary water is made available to impoverished communities, and that water infrastructures are frequently repaired and usable to alleviate the future implications created by the current crisis.


The CounterTerrorism Group (CTG) has become the global leader in proactively fighting terrorist organizations around the world. CTG specializes in intelligence collection, and analysis, as well as investigative work to counterterrorism. CTG resources are delivered to advise clients on a business resilience process using current threat intelligence data. We scan for threats across the following regions; Africa, Central Asia, Europe, North America, South America, and Asia-Pacific. Our organization assesses evolving threats through, Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) services. Our W.A.T.C.H Officers and Digital Targeters monitor the threat posed by cyber threats, insider threats, fraud, espionage, hazards, reputational damages, violent crime, kidnappings, and bombing threats. To find out more about our products and W.A.T.C.H. services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.


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[1] ReliefWeb, by Alyssa Schmidt, via MapChart

[2] Why Is There a Civil War in Syria?, History.com, September 2018, https://www.history.com/news/syria-civil-war-assad-rebels

[3] Water crisis and drought threaten 12 million in Syria, Al Jazeera, August 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/23/water-crisis-and-drought-threaten-12-million-in-syria-iraq

[4] Drinking-water, World Health Organization, June 2019, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/drinking-water

[5] Diarrhea, UNICEF, April 2021, https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-health/diarrhoeal-disease/


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