Gaza on Brink of Acute Water Crisis: Red Cross

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Common Dreams

Gaza on Brink of Acute Water Crisis: Red Cross

Blockaded strip's already deteriorating water system near catastrophe

A crater left in Gaza by an Israeli strike last week.  (Photo: Joe Catron/cc/flickr)

Amidst the military strikes by Israeli forces, now in their second week, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that the population of Gaza is on the brink of an "acute water crisis."

"Hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza are now without water," Jacques de Maio, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, said in statement released Tuesday. "Within days, the entire population of the Strip may be desperately short of water," he stated.

The roughly 140 square mile territory is home to at least 1.5 million people.

The blockaded territory's already fragile water infrastructure has been damaged by the current military operation, and the unsafe situation has made it impossible for technicians to carry out needed repairs, the organization adds.

Yet, as the ICRC and other aid organizations point out, the crumbling of Gaza's water system has been going on for years.

Barbara Lubin, Founder and Executive Director of the Middle East Children's Alliance, told Common Dreams that Gazans have faced water insecurity for decades. But "it's not that there isn't water," she said, but that Israel is denying their access to it.

MECA has provided water treatment facilities at some schools—where civilians may be seeking refuge during strikes by Israeli forces—to enable children to have access potable water. But Lubin fears that those too may have been damaged.

United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) stressed the long-term water crisis in a statement to press on Monday, stating that "Gaza's aquifer will have been entirely contaminated in the next three to four years making the strip essentially unlivable." The Palestinian Water Authority found that at least 90 percent of the water in Gaza in currently too contaminated to drink.

UNRWA spokesperson Sami Mshasha said Tuesday that Gaza's "water and sewage networks were barely functioning and with sustained bombardment over the past eights days were as good as destroyed and 19 million liters of untreated sewage were flowing into the ocean every day because there was no electricity to treat it."

Echoing Mshasha, ICRC's water and sanitation expert Guillaume Pierrehumbert said, "The latest attacks are the last straw" for Gaza's water system.

If ongoing attacks don't stop, ICRC's de Maio warned, "the question is not if but when an already beleaguered population will face an acute water crisis."

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