Jordan Valley flooding: “We don’t need to be afraid anymore”
It’s hot. So hot, that our host kindly brings us a tray of glasses and bottle of water before serving us the traditional Palestinian coffee.
I’m here, in the heart of the Jordan Valley, to find out more about a project we’re implementing in a small community of 15 families. Save the Children have supported the digging of a wide channel running through the village – to divert flood water coming from the mountains.
At the moment the channel is bone dry.
Children used to be terrified
We sit outside, in a circle of borrowed chairs and perched on an old bed-frame, and try to imagine what it is like when the water comes roaring down. Luckily our host, Ashraf* is a born storyteller.
“Sometimes the water would come so fast – in just 10 minutes it would cover everything. It is very terrifying for the children, the noise alone scares them. Especially during the day when the workers are in the field; there are only children and the elderly here.”
“Each year the floods came”
Ashraf tells us that the village built a dam, back in the nineties, when an especially bad storm partially destroyed his own house. They used whatever material they could find, but it wasn’t enough; each year the floods came and overwhelmed the dam.
“Thank God no one here has been physically hurt by the flooding. But it happened in the nearby village. A shepherd was herding his sheep and he was swept away by the water.”
Precious belongings lost forever
It’s hard to imagine on a day like today, I tell him. It is so peaceful.
Ashraf says, “One day it was a sunny day. The rain came in a different location, higher up in the mountain. So even though we did not have a drop of rain here, we still had flooding. We are in such a low area, and we are completely surrounded by mountains.”
“Then it’s really bad, because we don’t have time to move our most precious belongings. There is no warning.”
Now we are protected
He tells me the community is now in good shape, thanks to the new channel. Now all the water will flow through it, protecting the village.
“The problem was we were always afraid. Each year we would be relieved after the flood season ended, but what about next year? We worried about our children, our homes, our livelihoods.”
People here know that others are thinking of them
We talk further, about the difficulties of development in the context of the Jordan Valley, about living under occupation. Ashraf is softly-spoken but he is powerfully honest about the challenges he and his community face.
Toward the end of our conversation he points again to the Save the Children project: “This channel here will protect lives and homes. But more than that, people here will know that people elsewhere are thinking of them; that they care.”
No more fear
As we are finishing our coffee (which is delicious) I feel the first few drops of rain begin to fall. It is one of those summer showers that comes out of nowhere and usually goes just as quickly, but after our conversation I can’t help but look anxiously toward the mountains.
The children laugh at me. “Don’t worry,” Ashraf smiles, “you don’t need to be afraid anymore.”
Save the Children works in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to help vulnerable communities to prepare for, reduce and respond to the risks they identified. Through our programme, Partnership for Community-led Action for Resilience and Livelihoods (PCARL) we also work with our local partners to improve access to essential services like education, health and water and to develop livelihoods through training and agricultural support and activities. Since July 2014 our action has reached approximately 17,800 children and 15,000 adults in 18 communities in Gaza and the West Bank.
* Name changed to protect identity