Thirteen-year-old Israa holds a bucket filled with potable water from a public water point in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, State of Palestine, Monday 22 May 2017. “We have problems with both potable and non-potable water. We spend up to three days without water; this strongly affects our daily life” says Israa, “sometimes many days pass and my mother can’t wash the laundry and we can’t wash ourselves. We need water to live, but we have a shortage of it and its cost is very expensive. We often cannot afford it as my father is unemployed. I have to walk miles every day to fill in some plastic buckets with water from a public water filling point in our neighborhood. I am tired. Without water, we don’t feel dignified, but we sometimes don’t have money to pay for the tanker.”
The Gaza Strip has long suffered from severe water problems, and as of June 2017 the situation continues to deteriorate. Less than five percent of the water drawn from the aquifer is estimated to be fit for human consumption, as a result of overpumping and seawater seepage. The aquifer is expected to become unusable by the end of the year, with the damage to it becoming irreversible by 2020 if no action is taken. Many families rely on drinking water bought from private vendors at a high price, often without quality control, jeopardizing children’s health.
Families face further challenges on the sanitation front, as nearly one quarter of the population is not connected to a sewage network. Rehabilitating the deteriorating sanitation infrastructure has been made difficult by restrictions on the entry of construction materials, spare parts and equipment into the Gaza Strip. As many as 23 essential water and sanitation items such as pumps, drilling equipment and disinfectant chemicals are on the ‘dual use’ list, meaning that their entry is only permitted selectively.
The situation is further compounded by the electricity crisis. In April, the Gaza Power Plant, which provides one