Cheaper water for remote villages eases burdens for women, children
By Monica Awad
19 March 2015, Masafer Yatta, West Bank - Fatima Balout is responsible for raising nine children, cooking and cleaning at home, and herding the family’s goats and sheep while her husband works as a labourer in a nearby town.
For all these activities, water is required. But for Palestinian herders and Bedouin in remote communities across the West Bank, water is a rare commodity.
An estimated 313,000 people from 113 communities are not connected to a water network in the West Bank, which translates into enormous costs related to water purchase.
Such is the case in Masafer Bani Naim, home to about 2,500 Palestinian Bedouins and to Fatima’s family.
Located in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli security and administrative control, communities like Masafer Bani Naim are confronted to the near impossibility of obtaining a permit to build a water network. They have to rely on tankered water at vastly increased cost. Water consumption in some of these communities is as low as 20 litres per capita per day, one-fifth of the World Health Organization’s recommendation.
Fatima used to buy water at the price of NIS 300 (about $75) per truck, a considerable burden for her impoverished family.
To help children and families access safe, drinking water more easily and at a cheaper price, UNICEF purchased three trucks to tanker water to 53 communities and five large water steel tanks, all with funding from the Government and people of Japan.
The tanks were installed close to the communities but outside Area C, so that their installation would not be hampered.
The project, implemented with Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC), has helped more than 23,000 people access water; it has also divided by three the price at which Fatima buys water.
“This makes a considerable difference for my family, as we have limited means,” she tells.
A BETTER LIFE
By helping children and families access water, the projects helps residents remain on their land. Improved access to water has also eased household chores and allowed for better hygiene, while protecting children, who face an increased risk of water-borne diseases when they cannot access safe, drinking water in adequate quantities. It is a welcome relief in impoverished communities like Masafer Bani Naim.
“Life here is very hard,” Dalal Manasra, another resident, tells.
“We don’t have good roads, we don’t have a clinic, and we don’t even have a school for our children. The nearest clinic is located eight kilometres away. We need to pay NIS 80 (about $20) to get there, which is a lot of money for our families.”
Dalal says that she wanted to study nursing, but that her family did not have the means to fund her schooling past the eighth grade.
“We must educate our children. Without education, we are ignorant,” she pleads.
In Al Majaz, another remote community, 160 residents were provided with tankered water through the project.
“We used to wash our clothes only when water was available, and as little as possible because water was so expensive,” Aysheh Salman, 46 year old, says.
Now Aysheh, her six children and 10 grandchildren can wash their clothes more often. While the family used to spend NIS 200 ($50) every day for water, it now costs them only NIS 10 ($2.5).
Aysheh’s granddaughter, Abeer, flitters at her feet. The little girl, who is enrolled at school, has her own dreams—to become an Arabic teacher when she grows up.
With the savings made on water, her family will be able to release a little more cash, something which may one day help her complete her schooling and realize her dream.