Since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza on 8 July 2014, the water and waste water infrastructure in Gaza has been heavily affected by Israeli airstrikes. It has now been six months since the conflict, and the main water supply and wastewater infrastructure is still in need of urgent repairs.
Despite emergency repairs by the Coastal Municipal Water Utility and Municipalities, which have managed to restore up to 80% of the water delivery to levels from after the war, nearly 400,000 people in the Gaza Strip, including those still displaced, remain with no or reduced access to water supply and sanitation services. In the eastern Gaza city, Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood, lack of access to basic water and sanitation services is especially severe, due to water and sanitation networks, infrastructure and homes having been hit by the Israeli military. This means that Ash Shuja’iyeh has in some parts become uninhabitable, as it lacks the basic necessities for living.
Hundreds of families whose homes were bombed are forced to remain in shelters with very limited electricity and water and insufficient sanitation facilities. Heavy rainstorms have recently swept through Gaza, which due to the damages to the infrastructure, lead to flooding and endangered the health and safety of the population even further. Isa’ad Al Sotary, a 39-year-old housewife from Ash Shuja’iyeh, is living with 7 family members including her husband and sons and is suffering from winter rain which enters their destroyed home.
“During the last Israeli military operation on Gaza, our home in Ash Shuja’iyeh neighborhood was hit by a series of missiles. It was partially destroyed and became uninhabitable. The roof of the home was swept off, and now it is covered temporally with pieces of torn plastic sheets, which lets in cold air and rain water. During heavy rains our home was flooded and water entered our bedroom where my 6 children, husband and I sleep; this room is the most protected place in our destroyed home,” Isa’ad sadly complained.
She added, “I have a new born baby, and he needs more health care. I am afraid that he will catch a cold. All my 5 children are having caught the flu or cold and they need better health care. However, the treatment and medicine costs too much and we don’t have permanent income to buy it”.
After the long and hot summers, people in the Gaza Strip usually impatiently wait for the sound of the rain. However this year, people in Gaza wish to postpone the winter. Isa’ad Al Sotary adds: “I wish winter did not come this year. You can't imagine how difficult it is to live in this house in such hard conditions.”. Isa’ad’s husband, who works in farming , earns 20 to 30 ILS daily, which is not enough to cover the family’s needs of food and milk for the new baby, treatment for the children, buying drinking water and repairing the home’s roof. “No one helps me and I can’t afford all of this.” The winter is a difficult time for many hundreds of families and particularly those who are displaced and living in shelters. Urgent and quick actions should be taken now to provide people in Gaza with adequate shelter and infrastructure.
Meanwhile reconstruction works have barely begun due to the Israeli blockade and the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism has had little or no positive impact on people’s lives so far. According to recently collected data by Oxfam, the amount of building supplies that have entered Gaza in the three months since the ceasefire is less than a third of the amount that entered Gaza in the three months immediately before the conflict. At this present rate, it would take 23 years to rebuild Gaza. This same blockade had led to a protracted water crisis before the conflict, with over 95% of available water resources being unfit for human consumption.