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Access to Clean Water and Waterborne Illnesses in the Gaza Strip

As I write these words, Gaza is currently experiencing a crisis that involves difficulties in accessing clean water, leading to illnesses and other health problems. This situation has been ongoing for years, and now, with the recent bombings, the crisis has only worsened. Let's dig in the subject.



1.8 million people need humanitarian water in the Gaza Strip



According to the UN, only one in ten people have direct access to safe water in the Gaza Strip and approximately 1.8 million people need humanitarian water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance, of which children comprise a great majority (52%). Besides, the UN considers that, currently, almost 97% of the water in the Gaza Strip is not fit for human consumption. This lack of access to water has important health implications, including high rates of waterborne illnesses such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio.



What is the Gaza Strip?



The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory located on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in South West Asia. The place is bordered by its historical enemy, Israel, to the north and east, and Egypt to the south. Approximately 2 million Palestinians live in the small area, making it one of the most overpopulated places in the world. 


According to the UN, the population of locals in the Gaza Strip will keep spreading over fragmented geographical regions and is predicted to double to 9.8 million by 2050, which will affect the youth and destroy the health of Palestinian children. 


The reasons behind the catastrophe



The main reason for this situation is the fact that Gaza relies heavily on groundwater, which is pumped from a coastal aquifer that is shared with Israel. However, over-extraction of groundwater and contamination from untreated sewage and other sources have led to a decline in water quality and quantity. 


Plus, the place has been controlled by Hamas since 2007, an Islamic militant group affiliated with Iran that is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States. Fear of terrorism led the area to be impacted by ongoing Israeli blockades and restrictions impacting Palestinians’ freedom of movement and access to basic human rights. 



The possible solutions 


The main solution to such a critical condition is the construction of desalination plants and wastewater treatment facilities, as happened ten years ago when UNICEF laid the first stone of a €10 million seawater desalination plant in Gaza. 


However, the Gaza Strip keeps experiencing frequent disruptions to the water supply due to the ongoing conflict and political tensions with Israel. Pipelines and treatment plants have been damaged or destroyed during periods of violence, exacerbating the challenges faced by the population. 

Edited by Adedamola Aregbesola

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