When clean water flows from a faucet in the Gaza Strip’s Al Shifa hospital to wash the hands of a maternity ward nurse, it first has to be pumped through a network of pipes. In recent years, war and bombardment has decimated these already aging water and sewage networks, causing many of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents to go without piped water, and sewage to be dumped in the sea. Water that originates in the sole aquifer is mostly saline – causing the UN to warn that Gaza could become uninhabitable.
New Gaza warehouses help to keep water flowing – even in emergencies
In recent years, war and bombardment has decimated these already aging water and sewage networks, causing many of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents to go without piped water, and sewage to be dumped in the sea.
This clean water crisis is why UNICEF, supported by nearly €2.15 million in EU humanitarian aid funding, has constructed two emergency warehouses to hold supplies needed to repair Gaza’s waterworks during war or conflict – when running water is needed most. This 1,000 square metre structure was built and stocked to hold the necessary pipes and fittings to serve the large district of Khan Younis.
This project was part of a larger UNICEF plan to provide clean water to 320,000 people in Gaza in 2019 – daily, but also in crises. A city well was rehabilitated and a sewage treatment plant upgraded, both outfitted with renewable solar energy. The interior water network to Gaza’s largest hospital was refurbished, and several clinics provided with small solar-powered desalinization plants to help them stay open, even during emergencies. Finally, two warehouses, one in Khan Younis and a smaller one in Magazi will provide water authorities with needed storage space and equipment
The materials needed to construct such facilities, along with much of the piping and equipment, are not usually accessible to Gaza residents. Since 2007, Gaza has been under a blockade that severely restricts the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Coordination by humanitarian agencies like UNICEF is needed to import necessities like these pipefittings, along with cement and other building materials
Part of the humanitarian objective in Gaza is to make sure that the community is prepared when war or disaster strikes. By building these large emergency warehouses and stockpiling them, UNICEF is helping to ensure that water keeps flowing to homes, clinics, and hospitals during a crisis. The use of renewable energy prevents reliance on electricity or gas, both of which are in short supply in Gaza – especially when conflict breaks out.
Gaza’s most vulnerable – new-born babies and the sick – require good hygiene: clean hands and sterile equipment. Ready access to clean water is a basic element of a sanitary, disease-free environment. UNICEF and its partners are working to ensure that clean, piped water is available even during war and crisis for Gaza’s children and their families.