As many as 5.5 million residents of the Syrian capital Damascus are faced with a pandemic of waterborne disease due to severe shortages of clean water, according to the UN and aid groups.
The Ain al-Fijah water processing facility, which provides water for 70 per cent of the city's population via the Barada River, had suffered massive damage due to '' fighting, or because of sabotage, or because of both,'' UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.
According to activist-run media collective, Barada Valley, government and Russian aircraft had bombed the facility, puncturing its fuel depots and contaminating the water stream.
Images showed the roof of the facility collapsed into its main water basin, and according to activist group Mohammed al-Bardawi, it would take at least two months to get the facilities working again.
The government, however, denied any bombing of the water processing facility, stating it would not harm its own people and according to officials, they were forced to shut off the water after opposition forces poured gasoline into the river.
Meanwhile, some residents of the city are forced to flush their toilets with bottled water which others were dining on disposable tableware as an alternative to doing the dishes.
With the water shortage and resultant price-gouging many people were forced to turn to substandard water sources that could expose them to serious waterborne diseases, according to the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, known by its French acronym UOSSM.
According to the head of a UN-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria, the shutdown had already had ''dramatic'' consequences.
According to Jan Egeland, water supplies to 5.5 million people had been hit ''because of fighting, or because of sabotage or because of both''.
''To sabotage and deny water is of course a war crime, because it is civilians who drink it and civilians who will be affected by waterborne diseases'' if supplies are not restored, he told reporters in Geneva.