Emergency Water Distributions Reach Families in Gaza
After 19 days of attacks and military intervention, the water and sanitation systems in the Gaza Strip are on the verge of total collapse. Despite difficulties of access, the global humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF) has begun trucking emergency supplies of clean water to some 48,000 people in Gaza.
Over 500,000 People Without Access To Running Water
Families have virtually no access to drinking water: humanitarian access has been severely restricted, water infrastructure has been destroyed and systems are in need of repairs, and stagnant, standing water fills the streets. According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU)—the water and wastewater service provider for the Gaza Strip—some 500,000 people are without access to running water at all, another 500,000 residents are limited to 4-6 hours of running water every 5-7 days, and the remaining population receives 4-6 hours of water every 2-3 days.
“The main reason for this water shortage is the lack of electricity or fuel required for powering water pumps and wells,” says Stephen Williams, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in the Palestinian Territories. “There are also serious risks of contamination and disease from the destruction of sanitation infrastructure and the flooding of sewage lagoons.”
Distributing Water and Fuel, Controlling Water Quality
Despite the difficulties of access, Action Against Hunger has started distributing drinking water via water trucks: five trucks with a 5 cubic meter capacity and two other trucks with a 9 cubic meter capacity. ACF’s water trucking activities are coordinated with the CMWU’s two water trucks that began distributions in Gaza City three days prior. An ACF water engineer will coordinate these distributions with technicians from the CMWU to ensure the most effective assistance.
ACF’s water trucking activities will continue for the next eight weeks, providing 7,000 families (approximately 48,000 people) with a five-day supply of water at 25 liters per person per day. Action Against Hunger will also distribute 50,000 liters of locally sourced fuel to power those parts of the water network that remain in service. The water quality will be monitored to ensure there is no residual contamination from the damaged infrastructure. A second ACF water engineer will carry out follow-up activities and coordinate with local technicians in assessing the collapsed water networks so damage can be repaired as soon as possible.
A Trapped Population
The Israeli intervention comes after an 18 month blockade imposed on Gaza, leaving warehouses empty and devoid of the humanitarian supplies on which the majority of the population depends. The blockade has also devastated the private sector, driving an unprecedented number of Palestinians out of self-sufficiency and into extreme poverty. The crisis has deprived the majority of the 1.5 million inhabitants of their most basic rights and services, destroying vital infrastructure and creating shortages of water, food, medicine and electricity.
This collective punishment, culminating in the current conflict, is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law, as are the rockets fired from Gaza onto the civilian populations of Israel. Action Against Hunger calls upon all sides to cease hostilities, which is the only means of protecting civilians given the absence of secure zones in Gaza. Action Against Hunger calls upon all sides to cease hostilities and create an environment conducive to carrying out humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians as prescribed by International Humanitarian Law.
Action Against Hunger has been present in the Palestinian Territories since 2002, implementing water and sanitation and food security programs that assist 250,000 people.