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All remaining critical water infrastructure – supported in recent weeks by a limited supply of UNRWA fuel located inside Gaza – will be completely shut down.
It will no longer be possible to pump water from wells, desalinate drinking water or pump water through the mains. The lack of fuel will also mean that bottled water from trucks waiting to cross into Gaza from Egypt are not able to be transported to the population, desperately in need for clean water.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is more critical than ever. According to Chiara Saccardi, Action Against Hunger’s Middle East officer, “we have reports that the fuel available in Gaza has completely run out, which means that all essential services, including telecommunications, will be totally disrupted. This will severely affect the people of Gaza and our ability to provide humanitarian aid. Critical water and sanitation infrastructure will be paralysed, exposing displaced and vulnerable families to increased health risks and hampering their chances of survival”.
The rains expected will add to the sewage already flowing through the streets. Rainwater mixed with sewage is likely to lead to an increase in disease and possible outbreaks, which will spread rapidly due to overcrowding in displaced persons’ shelters.
The lack of fuel will also mean that telecommunications services, including internet and online financial services, will not be operational as of Today. “Humanitarian organisations with staff in Gaza will not be able to support the coordination of our response to this crisis, already constrained by the insecurity and challenges we face. In addition, our cash assistance activities will also cease to function. ATMs and online banking services will become impossible without a fuel-dependent connection,” says Chiara Saccardi.
The amount of water has been reduced by about 68 per cent since the war began in Gaza. Much of this is due to a lack of fuel to pump water from underground sources (which account for 80 per cent of Gaza’s water). The operation of Gaza’s water infrastructure relied heavily on the operation of Gaza’s only power plant, which closed on 11 October for lack of fuel. Other power sources remain disconnected, including all cross-border power lines.
Much of Gaza’s water infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed due to continued shelling. To date, of the 655 key water supply facilities, 25 have been totally damaged and 114 have been damaged by the conflict, in addition to damage to the water supply network, the treated water distribution network and sewage pumping stations.
According to Pablo Alcalde, head of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Action Against Hunger, “people are resorting to unsafe and high-risk sources. The coastal aquifer is almost entirely salinised due to marine intrusion, there are shallow wells that were used for agriculture because of their exposure to surface contamination, mainly due to bacteriological contamination and nitrates. Moreover, the impossibility of operating purification plants considerably increases direct filtrations to water sources, which constitutes a worrying route for the transmission of diseases and an alarming focus of epidemic outbreaks“; while adding: “the deepest aquifer which has been until now one of the main sources of water is not available both for lack of energy for its extraction and for its desalination“.
“All the water tanks in our house are damaged, so we can hardly store water anymore. We have ended up recycling water from cleaning or washing. With the storms and rain coming, many people living in crowded areas will be unprepared for the drop in temperatures and flooding,” says one of our colleagues in Gaza.
Action Against Hunger is working with local suppliers inside Gaza to distribute basic supplies such as water, food, hygiene products, nappies, blankets and mattresses as efficiently and quickly as possible. We have distributed thousands of bottles of water, hundreds of mattresses and hygiene products inside the Gaza Strip, in coordination with local and international actors, despite many difficulties.
Occupied Palestinian Territory
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