Scarcity of water is becoming life-threatening in Gaza, says charity ActionAid, with recent air strikes causing massive damage to water networks, a totally insufficient amount of water supplies entering in aid trucks and the ongoing lack of fuel causing catastrophic water shortages.
Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine, said: “The amount of water trickling into Gaza is a drop in the ocean compared with the desperate level of need.
“Thankfully we are in communication again with our staff and partners following the black outs.
“They are telling us that the situation is catastrophic, scarcity of water is becoming live threatening, people are dehydrated and becoming sick. Many can’t access clean water for drinking and resort to drinking salty or unclean water.
“Access to safe water and basic sanitation is a legal entitlement. All essential aid, including water, food, medicine and fuel must be allowed into Gaza immediately and in sufficient quantity before people start to die from dehydration or disease.
“For as long as it continues, the deprivation of goods and services essential for life potentially constitutes collective punishment of the people of Gaza; this would be a serious violation of international humanitarian law.”
At a bare minimum, people need three litres of water to drink per day and not become dehydrated. In Gaza right now, this tiny amount is no longer available, and many are resorting to drinking dirty or salty water.
On top of this families are unable to clean themselves, their clothes or to flush toilets and the risk of deadly waterborne and other infectious diseases spreading is growing by the minute.
An ActionAid staff member in Gaza describes the horrific situation: “Sadly, nowhere is safe in the Gaza strip, with no access to water or electricity. As a woman, I’m suffering. I don’t have access to the basic necessities of life. There is no water. I suffered during my period. There was no water available for me to get clean from my period blood. I couldn’t provide sanitary pads for my own needs throughout my period.”
Lack of water and the threat of waterborne diseases could cause a health catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of people and an alarming threat to the lives of pregnant and breastfeeding women and their newborn children, who are struggling to produce the milk they need to feed their babies and keep them alive.
A mother sheltering in a UN school told us: “The water we drink is not suitable for human consumption. I mean, even animals can’t drink it. But we have no other choice, this is the only available water. We need to drink. We will die anyway, but our children cry and scream because of hunger and thirst.”
ActionAid said: “Once again, we call on world leaders to employ all available means to stop the ground offensive and air strikes, ensure a ceasefire is in place, de-escalate the violence and protect civilians, particularly women and children. The time for action is now.”