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Syria's Soaring Temperatures Threaten Children's Health

  • Lisa Schlein

A boy is seen drinking from a puddle created by a burst water pipe in Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district June 2, 2013.

A boy is seen drinking from a puddle created by a burst water pipe in Aleppo's Karm al-Jabal district June 2, 2013.

The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) warns soaring summer temperatures in conflict-ridden Syria and neighboring countries of refuge are putting millions of children at risk of disease.

According to UNICEF, overcrowding and worsening hygiene are threatening the health and well-being of some four million children affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says children inside Syria and in the region lack safe water and good sanitation. And this, she says, puts them at risk of falling sick with diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, measles and other diseases.

"In Syria, the availability of safe water is one third what it was before the crisis. There are more than 4.25 million Syrians displaced within the country and the situation is particularly dire for those who live in overcrowded shelters with inadequate, damaged or overwhelmed water and sanitation systems."

Mercado says similarly dire conditions exist in refugee camps like Domiz in Iraq. She says the camp was built to house around 25,000 people, but now is hosting almost twice that number. She says the outlook for children living under the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions of the camp in scorching heat is very worrisome.

She says a similar scenario exists in Jordan's Zaatari camp, home to at least 120,000 Syrian refugees. She says temperatures in both countries are expected to soar to the mid-40s centigrade in the height of the summer.

"In Lebanon, multiple families share small apartments or live in makeshift settlements with little access to safe water and basic toilets and poor waste collection. Women and children often walk long distances to collect water that in many cases may be unfit for drinking. As the conflict triggers ever more population movement, UNICEF is accelerating efforts to provide sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene services, reaching almost nine million people since the beginning of the year."

Mercado says UNICEF is running a shortfall of $124 million for its humanitarian operations for Syrians this year.