On World Water Day, US Aid Group Launches Petition & Increases Pressure to Provide Clean Drinking Water for Children in Palestine

For Immediate Release

On World Water Day, US Aid Group Launches Petition & Increases Pressure to Provide Clean Drinking Water for Children in Palestine

BERKELEY, Calif. - The Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA), an American nonprofit working for the rights and the well-being of children in the Middle East, announces its petition to provide "Clean Drinking Water for Children in Palestine." MECA installs water treatment facilities at schools and kindergartens for children living under Israeli occupation and the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza through the Maia Project (Arabic for "water").

World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22 and was established by the United Nations to call attention to the world's water crisis, as well as the solutions to address it. The UN, Amnesty International (AI), and dozens more Palestinian and international NGOs have criticized Israel's actions that limit or prevent Palestinian civilians from accessing clean drinking water. Recent reports from the World Bank, AI, UNRWA, Gaza's Coastal Municipalities Water Utility & Science of the Total Environment conclude that:

* The Gaza aquifer is already over-extracted; the UN estimates that Gaza will have no drinking water in the next 15 years.
* Researchers have found that water from the aquifer is 90-95% polluted and unfit for human consumption.
* A recent study found excessive nitrate levels in the drinking water of Gaza. 90% of their water samples contained nitrate concentrations that were between two and eight times higher than the limit recommended by the WHO. High nitrate levels are especially dangerous to infants under six months and can cause methemoglobinemia, commonly known as "blue baby syndrome."
* There has been a marked increase in kidney diseases due to contaminated water.
* The most common infectious diseases affecting Palestinian refugees in Gaza-who make up more than three-quarters of the population-are directly related to inadequate supplies of safe water and poor sanitation: water diarrhea, acute bloody diarrhea and viral hepatitis.

Barbara Lubin, Director of MECA, stated, "We call on President Barack Obama to pressure the State of Israel into ensuring every child in Palestine has access to clean drinking water. Palestinian children have been silently suffering for decades and it is long past time that we stand up for their rights to adequate supplies of clean water."

Israel has contributed to the water crisis in Palestine by diverting water for use in illegal settlements and in Israel proper, destroying Gaza's water and wastewater treatment facilities, and enforcing a three-year blockade of Gaza that prevents importation of the equipment and supplies necessary to repair the facilities. Israel is the largest recipient of US aid, receiving approximately $3 billion in military aid annually.

About the Middle East Children's Alliance and the Maia Project
In September 2009, the Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) launched the Maia Project (Arabic for "water") to provide Palestinian children with clean, safe drinking water.

This project began when the Student Parliament at the UN Boys' School in Bureij Refugee Camp, Gaza were given the opportunity to choose one thing they most wanted for their school: They chose to have clean drinking water. MECA's partner in Gaza heard about this vote and, after meeting with representatives from the school and the Student Parliament, came to MECA to see if we could respond to the children's request for drinking water. MECA provided the funds to build a water purification and desalination unit for the school in 2007.

MECA is working in partnership with community organizations to build water purification and desalination units in schools throughout the Gaza Strip. We have provided clean water to four more large UN schools in Jabalia, Nuseirat, and Shati refugee camps and to two kindergartens in the town of Beit Hanoun and in Maghazi Refugee Camp.

Groups in Boston, MA, Granville, OH, Madison, WI, Philadelphia, PA, Portland, ME, and Whitefish, MT are supporting the Maia Project by raising funds for a water purification and desalination unit in their communities.

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Founded in 1988 by Barbara Lubin and Howard Levine, the Middle East Children's Alliance is a Berkeley-based non-profit humanitarian aid organization that has delivered more than $10 million in food, medicine and medical supplies to children in the West Bank and Gaza, Iraq and Lebanon.  MECA also provides financial assistance to community groups working with children in the Palestine/Israel.

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