Drinkable water has become an issue in the Gaza Strip. After the economical siege, the continuous military threats from the Israeli occupation forces and with no power supply, the people of Gaza are living in tough conditions; however, international reports are discussing Israel’s attempts to limit water supply.
A report published by Oxfam International said, “Palestinians in Gaza remember a time when almost everyone could drink clean water from the tap. Now less than 4% of fresh water is drinkable and the surrounding sea is polluted by sewage. Yet the international community is failing to do enough to protect the health and dignity of almost 2mn people who have nowhere else to go.”
The report added Gaza’s water and sanitation crisis is escalating dangerously, with clean water increasingly scarce and almost a third of households not connected to a sanitation system.
Last week’s shutdown of Gaza’s only functioning power plant creates even more urgency, with the water utility warning that it does not have the fuel to run water and sanitation facilities when the power is off.
Water pollution is among the factors causing a dramatic increase in kidney problems in the Gaza Strip, Dr Abdallah al-Kishawi said, with a 13-14% increase every year in the number of patients admitted with kidney problems to Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza severely limits materials from entering, making it incredibly difficult to develop water and sanitation infrastructure to meet the needs of a growing population.
Almost 3,000 items needed to build infrastructure to meet the demand for water and sanitation are still waiting for approval to enter through the mechanism, which requires Israeli approval of projects as well as individual items.
Recent research by Oxfam found that just 16% of items submitted for approval through the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) for the water sector have actually made it into Gaza, a damning success rate that mirrors the dynamics of the blockade itself.
In its third week with no power supply, due to its only power supply running out of gas to run, Gaza is now running with only four hours of electricity a day.
In the wake of the devastation in Gaza in 2014, the UN brokered an agreement — the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) — between the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel, so construction materials could enter Gaza more easily.
This has helped repair most of the water and sanitation infrastructure that was damaged almost three years ago.
However, Gaza’s chronic water crisis predates the war and requires a massive injection of funds and equipment to provide clean water and toilets.
The fate of Gaza Strip’s residents is linked to Israel’s approval of the projects first, which it continues to delay, placing the Strip and its population in the face of the crisis.
The Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which was signed under the auspices of former UN Middle East Peace Envoy Robert Serry, gives the Palestinian Authority a leading role in reconstruction efforts, enables the Gaza private sector, and provides security assurances through UN monitoring that these materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose.
The agreement was reached after the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2014, which claimed the lives of more than 2,200 Palestinians, and in which bombardments and invasion left 24,000 homes damaged or destroyed, and damaged about 146,000 other homes.
The Water Authority in Gaza warned of the gravity of the electricity crisis on the water and sanitation system in the Gaza Strip and stressed that the repeated power outages foreshadow a real crisis.
It reduced the functioning wells and pumping stations to 60% and desalination plants to 80% of their capacity and led to an almost total paralysis of the collection and pumping and treatment of sewage in view of the need to 400,000 litres of fuel per month, as well as the shortage of generators’ spare parts, foreshadowing a major health and environmental problems.
The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called for help after the announcement that Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely on 17th April after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to shortage of funds, adding that at the moment Gaza only receives power provided to it by Israel.
If funding for fuel is not secured immediately, Gaza’s 14 public hospitals will be forced to partially or completely close essential services, putting thousands of patient lives at risk, according to the World Health Organisation.
The situation will be immediately life-threatening for 113 newborns in neonatal intensive care units, 100 patients in intensive care and 658 patients requiring bi-weekly heamodialysis, including 23 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Efforts have been made to complete repairing water networks for around 100 families linked to the sewage system, and covering more than 1,500 square metre with drinking water network, in addition to installing water tanks to maintain intermittent water supply in residential areas.
Recently, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip has warned about the deterioration of the patients’ health due to the shortage of power supply, resulting in electricity blackouts of 12 hours per day.
The spokesperson of the health ministry said the Palestinian hospitals are in a dire situation due to the power and fuel shortage which led to operating the second level of generators in hospitals.
In addition, the ministry was forced to reduce the medical diagnostic and support services for Palestinian patients, urging all relief and humanitarian organisations to provide fuel to the hospitals and medical centres, before it is too late.

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