1. Context – the WASH situation
The longstanding closure of the Gaza Strip and extremely limited water resources have seriously impacted the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. Years of restricted access to fuel and materials have eroded the ability of the 25 WASH service providers to provide adequate water and sanitation services to the population. These service providers operate more than 500 water and sanitation facilities, including water and sewer networks and pumping stations, and desalination and wastewater treatment plants. The coastal aquifer, Gaza’s sole source of natural water, suffers from over-extraction, saltwater intrusion, and sewage infiltration, rendering it largely unfit for human consumption.
Even before the recent escalation of violence, more than 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza were not receiving adequate water and sanitation services. Daily water consumption per capita reached 82 litres against the WHO recommended minimum of 100 litres. According to Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), more than 96 per cent of the households received network water that didn’t meet drinking water quality standards. Instead, people in Gaza mostly relied on purchased trucked and bottled water from private vendors. Inadequate wastewater treatment is another problem; more than 100,000 m3 of untreated sewage was being discharged to the sea each day resulting in pollution along 75 per cent of the Gaza shoreline.
Throughout the escalation, the WASH Cluster, PWA, and the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) recorded more than 120 incidents affecting WASH infrastructure. Preliminary assessments determined that about 290 locations were partially damaged or completely destroyed. Immediate emergency repairs to the most critical water and wastewater facilities were undertaken to a limited extent. The Gaza WASH Cluster early warning indicators signaled that water supply per capita decreased by 30 per cent during the conflict due to direct impacts and loss of electricity, adversely affecting 800,000 people in Gaza.