7-year old Zain talking to UNICEF Special Representative, Ms. June Kunugi, Photo Credit:UNICEF-SoP/Izhiman
By Monica Awad
Ibziq, West Bank, 7 September 2016 – Driving through the hills of Tubas Governorate, 70 kilometres to the north of Jerusalem, lies Ibziq a small herding community, which is home to more than 400 people, half of them are children below the age of 18. Saltiyyeh, a mother of five, is standing against the outside wall of her small house in the morning sun, waving and welcoming the incoming visitors.
“I used to leave the house and my children for more than 10 hours every day to feed the livestock and quench their thirst”, says Saltiyyeh as she rolls her eyes and waves her head. “Now, the newly installed piped water changed my life completely,” she adds. “Now I leave the house for few hours only, enabling me not only to carry out my domestic chores, but also to help my children in their daily homework upon their return back from school”, she explains with a smile.
Located in Area C of the West Bank, Ibziq is characterised by a moderate climate, hot and dry during the summer season, and heavy rainfall during winter season. Yet, despite the rainfall, this community was one of the around 90 communities, which did not have access to piped water. Like most herding communities in Area C, approximately 70 per cent of Palestinian communities are not connected to a water network. Ibziq lacks water for drinking, washing, cooking, and for livestock use. As a consequence, these communities consume as low as 20 liters of water per person per day, one fifth the World Health Organization recommendation.
Access to safer, and cleaner water is made possible
Two of Saltiyyeh’s youngest children, dressed in colourful clean outfits, are happily playing with the sheep: “I used to take a bath once a week”, says 7-year old Nour. “Now, with the newly installed piped water, I am able to bathe on a daily basis”, she adds.
This community, like most communities in the area, had no other option than to rely on more expensive and often unreliable water trucking, or on other water sources which were in many cases are contaminated, creating health hazards and compromising their livelihoods.
“I used to see worms in the water we purchased from private water vendors, which often times made my children sick”, says Saltiyyeh pointing her two fingers at her eyes. “Now, we not only have water, but it is safer and cleaner”, adds Saltiyyeh.
With funding from the People and the Government of Japan, UNICEF and its partners have been providing safe drinking water and hygiene services to some of the most vulnerable communities, like Ibziq. Whether through household piped water connections, water tankering, provision of storage facilities to facilitate access to safe drinking water, or building sanitation facilities and promoting hygiene education in schools and communities.
“We are committed to securing safe drinking water to most vulnerable communities in Tubas Governorate”, says Rabih Al Khandakji, Governor of Tubas. “I am grateful to the People and Government of Japan, UNICEF and our partners for supporting us in realising this goal”, adds Al Khandakji
Access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities is not a luxury, but a basic human right. ”Water is critical for life and dignity, and is the cornerstone for achieving other human rights such as health, nutrition, and education”, says June Kunugi, UNICEF Special Representative, State of Palestine.
Saltiyyeh standing in her kitchen with her two youngest children Zain and Abdullah, happily saying that the piped water changed their lives. Photo credit: UNICEF-SoP/Izhiman
A holistic approach for sustainable development
The piped water is not only safer, but is available at a cheaper cost. In some areas of Area C, the cost of a cubic metre of water can be as high as $10, where the cost is influenced by distance, route conditions, waiting time at the filling point, and the capacity of the tank used. Meanwhile, the West Bank average water tariff is approximately $1.2 per cubic metre of water.
“Now, after having piped water, I pay NIS 4 ($1.2) per cubic metre of water, while in the past I used to pay NIS 25 ($7)”, says Saltiyyeh with relief.
For the 430 people residing in Ibziq, the newly piped water is not the only accomplishment attained, but also the school bus that transports school children to and from school crowns this major achievement.
“Our dreams are coming true”, says Saltiyeh with pride. Using her simple English language skills, Saltiyyeh nonetheless eloquently adds “We are thankful to UNICEF and the Government of Japan for believing in us, and helping us restore our dignity”.
Using a holistic approach to humanitarian assistance, and with generous funding from the People and Government of Japan, UNICEF supplied the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with eight school buses and four vehicles to commute more than 550 school children to and from school.
“We are working together to ensure a fair chance for every child. This means focusing in the most disadvantaged children and communities, and engaging a wide range of partners in doing so”, adds Kunugi.