Fighters target vital water plants across Middle East: Red Cross

Homs, Syria. A displaced girl stocks up on water from an ICRC water truck. Source.

(Reuters) – Fighters are increasingly targeting water and sanitation facilities across the Middle East, exacerbating severe shortages for agriculture and households, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday.

Consumption of water in the volatile region with rising populations was already at unsustainable levels in many areas hit by record-low rainfall and drought, but wars have pushed systems “close to the breaking point,” the aid agency said.

Militants in Syria, Iraq and Gaza have also used access to water and electricity supplies as “tactical weapons or as bargaining chips,” the ICRC said in a report.

“Heavy fighting and direct targeting have destroyed water pipes and power lines, leaving this vital resource away from hundreds of millions of people that are at great risk of water-borne diseases,” said Robert Mardini, head of ICRC operations for North Africa and the Middle East.

Sanitation often got a low priority during the fighting, the ICRC said.

“It is a ‘ticking time bomb’ in terms of its impact on the general environment, water resources (surface and groundwater), and by extension, to human health,” said Michael Talhami, ICRC regional water and habitat advisor…