Monday, March 23, 2009

Gazans Struggle for Clean Drinking Water

Inter Press Service, March 17, 2009 - As environmental experts, NGOs and government officials gather in Istanbul this week to attend the Fifth World Water Forum, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has drawn attention to the critical water situation in Gaza.

"ICRC teams are repairing water and sewage systems in Gaza that were badly damaged during the three-week Israeli military operation in January," the ICRC says in a media release.

"According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, one-fifth of the population had no direct access to drinking water, and relied on water purchased from private suppliers. Today, thousands of people still have no access to running water."

Much of Gaza's infrastructure was destroyed during Israel's military assault on the coastal territory during Operation Cast Lead, which created a critical humanitarian situation on the ground.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says 150,000 Gazans still remain affected by inadequate and unsafe water supply. Of these, about 50,000 remain without any water while the remainder receive water only every five to six days.

The OCHA adds that approximately 28,000 children in the Gaza Strip have no access to piped water. An additional 56,000 children have access to water only every week or so.

Gaza's Coast Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which handles water and sewage treatment, says the water crisis will continue until Israel allows sufficient spare parts and repair materials into Gaza.

Israel's continuing blockade of the strip means that construction material, most spare parts and repair materials have been prevented from entering. This has made it impossible to rebuild the thousands of destroyed and damaged buildings. It has also severely restricted repair of vital infrastructure such as waste and water treatment plants.

Continual electricity blackouts have further limited the treatment plants' operating capacity, while severe restrictions on the import of fuel have limited the ability of emergency generators....

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