With no water, Gazans are staring at death by disease and dehydration

With no water, Gazans are staring at death by dehydration
4 min read
26 October, 2023
Gazans under Israeli attack have been deprived of water, the source of life itself. With less than 3 litres of water available per person per day and desalination plants quickly running out of fuel, Gazans are facing death by disease and dehydration.

Huda Amer is struggling to sleep. Each night, outside her bedroom window, she hears countless Israeli airstrikes pummel the Gaza Strip. 

Like the other 2.3 million Palestinians in the besieged enclave, water is hard to come by. Since October 7, Israel has stopped the provision of life's necessities: fuel, water, food, medicine. 

Speaking to The New Arab, Huda explained that the current onslaught is the worst she's ever experienced, and the suffering inflicted on the Palestinians living in Israel is horrific.

"All our suffering is caused by Israel's occupation. We're collectively punished during times of conflict. The electricity has been continually interrupted since October 7," she said.

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The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza has deteriorated massively since the Israeli imposition of a blockade in the Gaza Strip in 2007.

The situation has always been fragile due to frequent attacks, the continuation of the siege, and the closure of the Rafah crossing. 

"Simple tasks such as defecating, completing ablution for prayers, or having a shower are a serious challenge. It's even worse for children"

Urbanisation in Gaza has occurred vertically, meaning that the number of water wells is limited.

Homes depend on Gaza's municipalities to provide water, which has been stopped due to the lack of fuel needed to turn pumps on. Moreover, Israeli airstrikes have targeted water sources that serve more than 1.1 million Gazans. 

Huda told The New Arab that people in her neighbourhood are struggling to find alternative ways to get water. "In our neighbourhood, there are only two water wells, one belongs to the mosque, and the other is a private one," she said. 

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Gazans are now resorting to primitive methods to access water. After 11 days of war, Gazans in Huda's neighbourhood were able to find a generator to pump water into the pipes of homes, turning it on using Huda's family gas canister because there was no fuel. 

Huda said how surreal it was for families to get to clean their homes and wash their clothes again. "When we got water that day, I felt alive again. There's no life without water, seriously," Huda told The New Arab.

Despite attempts to adapt, the situation is getting worse day by day. Simple tasks such as defecating, completing ablution for prayers, or having a shower are a serious challenge. It's even worse for children.

Reports of overcrowding and the spread of diseases are also deeply worrying, even more so when hospitals are damaged and destroyed. 

In a statement issued on October 18, Action Against Hunger warned of the health consequences of a lack of water. They said that overcrowded displacement shelters close to breaking point, adding incredible stress on water and sanitation infrastructure.

One shelter supports 24,000 people — with 60% of children having diarrhoea. This is a crisis on the brink of explosion.

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The UN estimates that there are less than three litres of water available per person for the 2.3 million people living in Gaza, half of whom are children who are most at risk from water shortages and diarrhoeal infections — the leading cause of child mortality around the globe.

This number is likely to increase by the day as supplies and fuel used to make water drinkable in the desalination plants are reduced.

Tamer Hamam, from Gaza City, told The New Arab how difficult it is to not help his loved ones, he is totally powerless. "It's impossible to travel to provide water for my family, travelling to another part of Gaza right now is incredibly unsafe. Can you image the feeling of helplessness I feel," Tamer lamented.

The stories are endless. Mohammed Odeh on X/Twitter posted: "The girl tells her father: 'Daddy, I'm thirsty. I want to drink'. He replied: 'Swallow your saliva, daughter.' I swear it happened right in front of me."

Salam AbuSharar is a Palestinian pharmacist, activist and blogger

Follow her on Twitter: @SalamAbuSharar