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Palestine: water an essential for peace

Thu, 01Apr2010

here is press release we are forwarding  from EWASH

Press Statement: 22 March 2010


On World Water Day 2010 on the 22nd March, the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH) calls upon the Israeli government and International community to resolve the issue of water in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both Israel and the International community must ensure that obstacles to the provision of water and sanitation services in the occupied Palestinian territory are removed, guaranteeing Palestinians equal access to sufficient supplies of clean water. Only then will the Palestinian people be able to enjoy their basic human right to water and sanitation.

18 organisations working in the water and sanitation sector in the occupied Palestinian territory, raise concerns over restrictions in Palestinians access to adequate quantities of safe water, particularly in the Gaza Strip. The EWASH calls for an immediate 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.

90 % 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.”

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 both Gazans and Israelis.

The health of the Gazan population is suffering as a result of inadequate water and sanitation services. The increase in typhoid and high rates of bloody diarrhoea in Gaza are a result of deteriorating sanitary and hygiene conditions. According to Mr. Jerry Farrell, Country Director for Save the Children Alliance in the oPt and Gaza “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 are receiving decent drinking water.”

In the West Bank, Israeli imposed movement and access restrictions due to road blocks, checkpoints and the Wall have cut many Palestinian communities off from their water resources. Israeli imposed restrictions on building and rehabilitation in Area C (61% of the West Bank), including for water and sanitation services and facilities, also leave people with minimum quantities of water. In order to maintain daily drinking water supplies, Palestinians living in Area C have become dependent on water sources which are often unsafe, such as springs, tankers and cisterns.

For more information please contact:
Cara Flowers, EWASH Advocacy Task Force Officer (West Bank) Tel: 0575538529, Email:cflowers@oxfam.org.uk
Nasser Barakat, EWASH Advocacy Task Force Officer (Gaza) Tel: 0598910834, Email: nbarakat@oxfam.org.uk

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