LONDON, July 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A worsening drought in Syria has "dire humanitarian consequences for millions", the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has warned.
A combination of limited winter rain and high summer temperatures has affected agriculture and food production across Syria, where people are especially vulnerable after three years of bitter conflict.
"Syria is already facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and this summer millions of families are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain clean water," said Dr. Abdulrahman Attar, president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC).
Parts of Syria are suffering their lowest levels of rainfall in over fifty years according to a report published by UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency.
In the first half of 2014 most parts of the country received only half the average rainfall for the time of year, the report said.
According to SARC, national wheat production in 2014 is expected to be 52 percent lower than in 2013.
CONSEQUENCES OF CONFLICT
Since civil war broke out between President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and rebel groups in 2011, over 170,000 Syrians have been killed.
There are now around three million Syrian refugees, mainly in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, while around 6.5 million Syrians are displaced internally.
The influx of Syrian refugees has placed serious pressure on water and sanitation services in neighbouring countries. Drought relief efforts are underfunded across the region.
Within Syria, conflict has caused severe damage to sewage systems, pumping stations and other water infrastructure.
Frequent power cuts, fuel shortages and limited maintenance of water works have made the situation worse, especially in areas most affected by fighting, such as Homs and Aleppo.
The ancient city of Aleppo was without any humanitarian aid for ten months due to conflict, and the situation continues to deteriorate.
Displaced people can add to the strain faced by host communities, as tensions are heightened by competition over limited resources such as water and food.
"We urge all parties to the conflict to ensure the provision of clean water for all Syrians at all times, and call on the international community to rapidly increase its support for the essential water and sanitation programs of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Syria, " Attar said.
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