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Exploring the Impact of Conflict on Water Crisis in Gaza: Israel-Palestine War


Waiting for water
Palestinian children filling up water containers.
Introduction

The United Nations (UN) states that the right to water entitles everyone to have access to sufficient, safe, accessible, and affordable water for personal and domestic use.[1] The UN also clarifies that having physical access to water does not necessarily mean that it is sanitary, safe, or even affordable. In addition, the UN specifies that no one should be discriminated against from the right to access water. However, marginalized groups, such as indigenous peoples, refugees, disabled people, children, and others, tend to face discrimination and are overlooked by those who govern and plan water and sanitation services[2].  


Water Scarcity in Palestine 

On October 7, 2023, the Israeli government shut off the water pipes that provide Gaza with water. Recently, they started to pump water again, but the United Nations has reported that 96 percent of this water is not safe for human consumption.[3] This water is not able to reach all of Gaza, which has forced Palestinians to rely on local water supplies. Unfortunately, there is not enough local water for everyone, which means that adults, children, and the elderly are not drinking the amount of water needed to survive. UNICEF reports that Palestinian children are only consuming 1.5 to 2 liters per day, which is severely below the amount of water that the body needs to survive.[4] The UN recommends that one person per household should need at least 13 gallons for drinking, cooking, and bathing.[5] Unfortunately, Palestinian families are only able to receive 5 gallons of water per day, and they must wait in line early in the morning until noon to receive it. 5 gallons is clearly not enough for a whole family, considering the number of children they may have. This means that they must ration the water they’re given to be used for cooking, showering, washing clothes, and drinking.  


Waiting for water
Palestinians waiting to receive their daily water.
Unsafe Water Conditions in Palestine 

Not only is access to water limited, but the sanitation systems in Gaza are either damaged or destroyed. The ETA Water Company owns three desalination plants in Rafah, which take water from the Mediterranean Sea and distribute purified water to Palestinian locals.[6] Currently, one of ETA’s plants has been destroyed and the other is offline, leaving only one. With the shortage of fuel in Gaza, ETA’s singular plant has not been able to remove the salt and other contaminants from its water.[7] Due to this, Palestinians are suffering from dehydration, malnutrition, and disease from unsafe water. Many have caught waterborne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid.[8] Without clean water, medical providers cannot operate on those who have been infected, which has led to disease outbreaks in Gaza.[9] The World Health Organization and UNICEF have both reported that the spread of these diseases has also risen due to a lack of proper waste management.[10] Palestinians are forced to be surrounded by sewage waste and do not have access to properly working restrooms, showers, and sinks. 


Conclusion 

As mentioned in the beginning, depriving a group or person from obtaining basic needs such as water, food, and even medical care is a form of a human rights violation. Currently, there are Palestinians dying from thirst, hunger, and disease. On top of that, Palestinian soldiers and innocent civilians have died from Israeli airstrikes and bombing. In total, more than 29,000 Palestinians have died, and more than 69,000 Palestinians have been wounded.[11]  


Call to Action 
protestors walking
People protesting to Free Palestine.

From the current events happening in Palestine, we can examine the significant role that water plays in a society. In first-world countries, water insecurity may not be a phenomenon that resonates with us since it can be accessed anytime. Studies show that water insecurity and inadequate sanitation are proven to be associated with common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.[12] These studies prove that stressful everyday experiences concerning water insecurity and poor sanitation cause emotional distress.[13] Considering this study, it is evident how the water conditions in Gaza are causing severe emotional distress to Palestinian families right now. This issue has come to affect a whole ethnic group, meaning that it has officially become a social problem that needs to be addressed.[14] 


 

Endnotes

[1] United Nations, ‘Human Rights to Water and Sanitation’ (UN-Water2022) <https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/human-rights-water-and-sanitation>


[2] United Nations (n 1)


[3] Ahmed AK, ‘Israeli Authorities’ Cutting of Water Leading to Public Health Crisis in Gaza | Human Rights Watch’ (Human Rights Watch16 November 2023) <https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/11/16/israeli-authorities-cutting-water-leading-public-health-crisis-gaza> accessed 8 March 2024


[4] UNICEF, ‘“Barely a Drop to Drink”: Children in the Gaza Strip Do Not Access 90 per Cent of Their Normal Water Use’ (www.unicef.org19 December 2023) <https://www.unicef.org/lac/en/press-releases/barely-drop-drink-children-gaza-strip-do-not-access-90-cent-their-normal-water-use> accessed 5 February 2024


[5] Neuman S and Baba A, ‘There’s a Water Crisis in Gaza That the End of Fighting Might Not Solve’ (NPR29 December 2023) <https://www.npr.org/2023/12/29/1221571110/gaza-water-israel-crisis-hamas> accessed 9 March 2024


[6] Neuman, Baba (n 5)


[7] Neuman, Baba (n 5)


[8] Ahmed (n 3)


[9] ibid.


[10] World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund, ‘Infection Prevention and Control and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Measures in Health-Care Settings and Shelters/ Congregate Settings in Gaza’ (2024)


[11] Shurafa W and Magdy S, ‘More than 29,000 Palestinians Have Been Killed in Gaza since War’s Start, Health Ministry Says’ (PBS News Hour19 February 2024) <https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/more-than-29000-palestinians-have-been-killed-in-gaza-since-wars-start-health-ministry-says> accessed 7 March 2024


[12]Kimutai Id J and others, ‘Evidence on the Links between Water Insecurity, Inadequate Sanitation and Mental Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’ (2023)


[13] Lakhani N, ‘Israel Is Deliberately Starving Palestinians, UN Rights Expert Says’ The Guardian (27 February 2024) <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/27/un-israel-food-starvation-palestinians-war-crime-genocide> accessed 9 March 2024


[14] University of Minnesota, ‘What Is a Social Problem?’ (open.lib.umn.edu2016) <https://open.lib.umn.edu/socialproblems/chapter/1-1-what-is-a-social-problem/> accessed 11 March 2024






































































 

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