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Critical access to water during COVID-19 endangered by a rise in demolitions in the West Bank: The case of Masafer Yatta

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The right to sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water: A struggle for Palestinians in Area C

Everyone should enjoy the right to sufficient, safe, accessible and affordable water. Access to clean water and sanitation is not only a fundamental right and a critical element for human dignity and health, but is also essential to the achievement of several basic human rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICCESCR), both ratified by Israel and Palestine, recognize the right to water as part of the right to life (ICCPR Art 6); for an adequate standard of living and the right to food (ICESCR Art 11); and the right to health (ICESCR Art 12). In addition to the obligations under International Human Rights Law (IHRL), the supply of adequate and safe water to the population is also protected by International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in situations of occupation. Israel as an occupying power under IHL must, to the fullest extent of the means available to it, ensure sufficient quantities of water for the Palestinian population under occupation in the West Bank. Currently, in many parts of Area C, the basic water needs of Palestinians are not being adequately met.

Israel controls more than 85% of the water resources in the West Bank. In Area C (which represents 60% of the West Bank) communities depend on Israel’s planning system, however, the application process for a construction permit has an extremely low success rate. These restrictive and potentially discriminatory planning policies, as described by the UN Secretary General, deny communities access to affordable and safe water, including drinking and domestic water, and water for basic hygiene and sanitation facilities, including toilets, sewage networks, and cisterns. This lack of access to water also prevents herders and pastoralists who are living in these areas from maintaining their livelihood assets. Currently, 178,000 people living in Area C are identified as vulnerable due to the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).