Ongoing water crisis in Gaza, unrelieved by ‘easing’ the blockade
27 June 2010
The EWASH Advocacy Task Force is a sub-committee of the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH) whose members include local and international NGOs, like Oxfam and Save the Children, and UN Agencies. It coordinates messaging among EWASH members to raise awareness of the water, sanitation and hygiene situation in the occupied Palestinian territory at local, national and international levels so that tangible improvements to the lives of Palestinians are realised.
The Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH) – a coalition of 26 NGOs calls on Israel to put an immediate and sustained end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip. EWASH also calls on the international community and the Palestinian Authority to increase pressure on Israel to end the blockade and play an active role in facilitating the process that will enable this to happen.
The EWASH welcomes recent steps by Israel to ease the blockade but asserts that these are insufficient and further action is required if the crisis in the Gaza strip is to be alleviated. Materials essential for water and sanitation provision should be allowed into the Gaza Strip with immediate effect. EWASH welcomes the recent truckloads of water, sanitation and hygiene materials that were permitted to enter the Gaza Strip in April and May.
However, the quantity of supplies is nowhere near sufficient to ensure the proper functioning of Gaza ’s damaged and deteriorating water and sanitation systems. Nor can these limited supplies carry out priority projects such as reconstruction of water networks which were damaged during Operation Cast Lead, or upgrades to waste water treatment plants which are currently stretched beyond capacity.
The EWASH calls upon all actors to ensure an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of Gaza’s border crossings to allow unrestricted access for materials and spare parts critically needed to restore Gaza ’s water and sanitation services. Only then will the Gazan population be able to move towards enjoying their basic human right to water and sanitation.
90 percent of water for domestic supply in the Gaza Strip is below the minimum World Health Organisation (WHO) standard for drinking water. “The poor quality of drinking water and pollution of water resources in the Gaza Strip is a matter of grave concern” said Jeremy Hobbs, Executive Director of Oxfam International. “The lack of safe drinking water in Gaza forces people to use water from unregulated water vendors or agricultural wells that are unfit for human use,” Hobbs said.
The Coastal Aquifer, Gaza ’s sole source of water, is heavily contaminated. This is partly due to a lack of adequate sewage treatment. The situation is exacerbated by the blockade, which restricts the entry of materials necessary for the repair, operation and maintenance of both water and sewage networks and desalination plants on which the majority of the Gazan population is dependent.
This has a detrimental impact on the immediate humanitarian response and long term reconstruction and rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. 50-80 million litres of untreated and partially treated wastewater are discharged daily from Gaza into the Mediterranean Sea. This is due to damaged sewage treatment facilities, postponed treatment plant upgrade projects, and a shortage of fuel and electricity necessary to operate sewage pumps and treatment plants. This has caused environmental damage and represents a health threat to Gazans and potentially Israelis.
The health of the Gazan population is suffering as a result of inadequate water and sanitation services. Presence of typhoid and high rates of diarrhoea in Gaza are a result of deteriorating sanitary and hygiene conditions. According to Mr. Jerry Farrell , Country Director for Save the Children US in the oPt “ Infants under six months are most at risk from contaminated water that carries extremely high levels of nitrates and other pollutants as well as diarrhoea-causing bacteria. We must do whatever is necessary to make sure families especially those with small children have access to decent drinking water.”
For Further information, interviews or photographs please contact: Cara Flowers, EWASH Advocacy Task Force Officer (West Bank) Tel: +972 575538529
The EWASH is the main coordinating body for Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene activities in the occupied Palestinian territory representing 26 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. See the EWASH website.
Here is a selection of EWASH factsheets on the water situation in Gaza and the West Bank
The Impact of the Blockade on Water and Sanitation in Gaza
Water Resources In the West Bank
Water Quality in the Gaza Strip
The Right to Water and Sanitation in the oPt
Access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Area C
Water for Agriculture and Livelihoods in Gaza