For millions of Damascus residents, long-term concerns about the direction of the war in Syria have been replaced by worries about where to get enough water to do the dishes, wash clothes or take a shower.
For nearly two weeks, the Syrian capital and its vicinity have been afflicted by a water crisis that has left taps dry, caused long lines at wells and forced people to stretch whatever thin resources they can find.
“When the world gets hard for us, we work something out,” said a woman in a video posted on Facebook showing how she used a jury-rigged cola bottle to wash teacups.
Like most of Syria’s problems, the Damascus water crisis is a symptom of the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced about half the country’s prewar population of 22 million and left its territory divided into zones controlled by the government, armed rebels and jihadi groups.
While a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey and announced last week has reduced overall violence across the country, it has not stopped the fighting everywhere, nor has it resolved what happens when resources needed by one side are controlled by its enemies, as appears to be the case with Damascus’ water.
Historically, most of the water for the capital, which is controlled by the government of President Bashar Assad, has come from the Barada Valley north of the city, which is controlled by rebels who want to oust Assad.
The crisis began on Dec. 22, when the water stopped flowing. Each side has accused the other of damaging infrastructure near the spring, halting the flow.
Anti-government activists have posted photos online, purporting to show structures around the spring that they say were damaged by exploding barrels dropped from government helicopters. The government first accused the rebels of polluting the water, then of damaging the infrastructure.
Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian office in Geneva, said by email Tuesday that the “deliberate targeting of the water infrastructure” had caused the shut-off. “But we are not in a position to say by whom,” he said.
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