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Four million in Damascus without safe drinking water: UN

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A Syrian girl drinks water at a school near Damascus on October 19, 2016.

A Syrian girl drinks water at a school near Damascus on October 19, 2016.

The UN has warned that four million people in the Syrian capital city of Damascus have been deprived of safe drinking water supplies for over a week after springs outside the city were deliberately targeted.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced in a statement on Thursday that water supplies from Wadi Barada and Ain al-Fija springs in northwest of Damascus which serve 70 percent of the population in the city have been cut after “infrastructure was deliberately targeted and damaged.”

“The UN is concerned the water cut could lead to diseases transmitted through dirty water, especially in children, in addition to the extra financial burden for families,” the statement said. “(People) have to purchase water from private vendors, where prices and water quality are unregulated,” it said.

Each neighborhood in Damascus reportedly gets water for about two hours a day and bottled water prices had increased dramatically in the free market.

According to the OCHA, 15 million people across Syria are in need of help to access water and households spend nearly a quarter of their income on water.

The Syrian army and its allies have been conducting an operation to liberate the Wadi Barada valley from terrorists since last week.

The government says the terrorists have polluted the springs with diesel, forcing authorities to cut the supplies on Friday.

The terrorists in Wadi Barada have cut water supplies several times in the past to prevent the Syrian army from recapturing the area.

Last week, the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Local Administration ordered authorities in the provinces of Rif Dimashq and Damascus to start using water reserves until the problem was resolved.

Syria has been the scene of a foreign-backed crisis since early 2011.

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimates that over 400,000 people have been killed since the onset of the militancy. The UN has stopped its official casualty count in Syria, citing its inability to verify the figures it receives from various sources.

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