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Syrian refugees flee to water-scarce Jordan

Today, with a civil war raging, Xylem Watermark supports Mercy Corps in building a sustainable water system for the tens of thousands of Syrians entering the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

With their country being torn apart in a deadly civil war, hundreds of thousands of Syrians continue to escape across the border into neighboring nations. The situation is so desperate that each day another 2,000 people – mostly mothers and children – are compelled to leave their homes in Syria, hike many hours under the cover of night and find their way south into Jordan.

It’s not an easy journey or an easy choice. Yes, they are leaving behind bullets and missiles. But in Jordan, they are entering one of the driest countries in the world and facing a new fear – lack of safe, clean drinking water.

Xylem Watermark is working with Mercy Corps, the program’s nonprofit disaster relief partner, to eliminate that fear and give Syrian refugees a safe haven with safe water supplies.

In the United Nations-run Zaatari refugee camp – opened in July 2012 and located just six miles south of the Syrian border – Mercy Corps is using funds from Xylem Watermark to facilitate construction of two deep wells capable of providing a daily supply of clean water for up to 75,000 men, women and children in the camp.

“This is a brave humanitarian action that will surely impact the quality of life of the Syrian refugees,” says George El-Hani, Sales Manager for Xylem’s Applied Water Systems business in the Middle East and Africa.

Water infrastructure meets critical needs

The Zaatari wells, slated for completion in February 2013, will be fitted with submersible pumps, back-up generators, chlorine stations, storage facilities, booster pumps, pipelines and site security. The costs of building the wells were underwritten by a $150,000 contribution from Xylem Watermark’s emergency response fund. That donation – paired with a similarly significant contribution from the UN – helped Mercy Corps raise even more money for the project.

“Our early contributions made it clear that this was a valid public-private partnership, which in turn helped Mercy Corps secure more than $1 million in grants from other organizations for the important work they are doing in Jordan,” says Michael Fields, Director of Xylem Watermark.

The money – and water – are desperately needed, as the war in Syria shows no sign of ending any time soon. Today, the Zaatari camp is home to about 73,000 refugees.

“The needs of the refugees are daunting. But we have done this before and I know we will get the job done,” wrote Cassandra Nelson, a member of the Mercy Corps response team in Jordan, who went on to applaud Xylem Watermark for “your continued support of our emergency water and sanitation efforts.”

Solving water in the Middle East

Xylem’s support of the Mercy Corps water relief effort in Jordan is an extension of the company’s commitment to bringing water solutions to the Middle East. Today, Xylem has a Middle East sales office in Beirut, Lebanon and more than 100 employees working in sales offices throughout the region. Xylem products can be found in a wide variety of Middle East locations, from Burj Khalifa in Dubai to the Great Pyramids in Egypt to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

“Here in the Middle East, we live with looming water shortages as a daily reality,” says El-Hani. “This impacts population shifts from arid and remote areas to cities where water and other critical needs are available. At Xylem, we are working to provide water infrastructure solutions that help people stay in their original lands, and ones that help ensure our cities can manage the water needs of their growing populations.”

The Zaatari refugee camp has become a small city in its own right, complete with makeshift marketplaces, coffee shops, elected officials and soon, a working water infrastructure made possible by Mercy Corps, the United Nations and Xylem Watermark.

“This sustainable water system,” says Fields, “will help to provide a sense of normalcy and much-needed peace to people who have had their lives turned upside down through no fault of their own.”

by Simon