The blockade of Gaza: Five years on
Gaza's only fresh water source is now too dangerous to drink and is contaminated with fertiliser and human waste, according to a shocking new report from Save the Children and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).
On the fifth anniversary of the blockade, Gaza's Children; Falling Behind, reveals desperate families are being forced to buy from private sources, not knowing that in most cases this water too is contaminated, often at ten times the safe level.
With 1.7 million people - including more than 800,000 children - crammed into just 365 square kilometers - an area roughly equivalent to the size of the Isle of Wight - Save the Children is concerned about the increasing threat of disease.
“Innocent children are living in inhumane conditions after five years under a blockade. They are now forced to drink dirty and dangerous water that will make them weak and sick. Diarrhoea which is easily treated here in the UK can be a killer in these conditions.” said Justin Forsyth, Chief Executive of Save the Children
Since the blockade started, the number of children under three being treated for watery diarrhoea has doubled. High levels of nitrate – found in faeces and fertiliser – is also linked to some cancers and is a massive risk to pregnant women.
Gaza's sewage system is also completely broken, much of it destroyed during Operation Cast Lead and treatment plants are overloaded or lack fuel. Open cesspits sit right next to family homes and in just the first two months of this year, three children drowned in open sewers.
Justin Forsyth continued: “Gaza children are living in prison-like conditions, trapped and unable to dream of a better future. We must end the blockade and ramp up immediate projects to provide clean, safe drinking water and sanitation.”
There are only two crossings available for people to leave Gaza and people require select security permits to leave the heavily guarded exit. Crucial equipment needed to repair the sewage and water system remains blocked and on the restricted list of goods allowed in. Just one fifth of the equipment needed has been delivered to date, with the remainder sitting unused in warehouses.
The charity is calling for:
1. Israel must lift the blockade in its entirety to enable the free movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza, including the West Bank and Jerusalem
2. All planned water and sanitation projects must be implemented immediately and a clear timetable provided by the Israelis for their completion
3. The International Community, along with relevant authorities must implement long term strategies to improve conditions for children
4. The Palestinian Authority must facilitate the impartial and rapid material provision and funding of medical supplies and services in Gaza
5. Donor must ensure that funding is available for long term projects and not just emergency, short term projects
For more information please call Save the Children’s Media Unit on +0044 207 012 6841 or 0044 7831 650 409.
Interviews are available in London and within Gaza.