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  • A Palestinian man pulls his donkey as he makes his way to fill bottles and jerrycan with drinking water in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, March 1, 2016.

    A Palestinian man pulls his donkey as he makes his way to fill bottles and jerrycan with drinking water in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, March 1, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 March 2016

On World Water Day, the EWASH coalition warns of the ever-worsening water and sanitation situation in Gaza, calling for a political solution.

The Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene group in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a coalition of 30 leading humanitarian organizations, has called attention to the severe water situation in the Gaza Strip on World Water Day.

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“Through war after war, the existing and already poor water infrastructure in Gaza is repeatedly destroyed or damaged. With a near decade-long blockade, some of the EWASH projects remain delayed, incomplete or inoperative as vital materials take months to reach the local market – if at all,” Maher Al Najjar, the deputy general director of the Palestinian Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, said in a release.

The Palestinian enclave has been under Israeli siege since Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006, beating out Fatah and eventually gaining control of Gaza against further Israeli attacks.

Gaza’s water and sanitation sector, which was in the process of being renovated when the siege was put into place, has suffered greatly. Left with no choice but to severely reduce water consumption and to rely upon desalinated water purchased from private vendors, 95 percent of Gaza’s population may now be at risk of waterborne diseases, as 68 percent of this water is deemed bio-contaminated.

Gaza has also faced three wars instigated by Israel since 2006, the most recent of which was in 2014. Over 2,000 Palestinians were killed in the 51-day war, including more than 500 children.

"It is World Water Day, and in Gaza 1.8 million people keep suffering and being collectively punished by Israel because of the blockade," Camilla Corradin, spokesperson for EWASH, told teleSUR. "Not only do Palestinians not have access to their rightful amount of shared water. The infrastructure cannot be recovered, maintained or developed because of the blockade."

Often, the international community has donated funds to help rehabilitate Gaza's decimated water infrastructure, which is then used to buy needed equipment.

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But "most of the equipment needed for the water sector needs to undergo extremely time-consuming and complex procedures" to pass through Israeli inspections in order to enter the besieged strip.

EWASH cites the Sheikh Radwan water tank as "a perfect example." Funds have been pledged for its construction and the project has obtained the necessary approval by Israel before the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism – through which projects are submitted for Israeli vetting – was established.

"Yet, none of the needed technical materials have entered Gaza thus far. Without the missing electromechanical equipment," such as water pumps, "the water tank remains inoperative, leaving 75,000 people subject to severe water shortages."

The reason given for these delays is often Israeli concerns for its security.

"How can Israel justify that pumps are a security threat?" Corradin concluded.

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