During the 2014 escalation of hostilities in Gaza, Um ‘Ahed Al Ajla sought shelter with her extended family on the top floor of a construction site.
However, the neighbourhood they settled in was also hit in Israeli attacks and her family had to take refuge again in another area, before having to relocate for a third time after their shelter was hit.
❝Our life is all running and flight,❞ she said.
After the ceasefire, the family stayed in buildings that lacked the most basic facilities or sanitation and hygiene facilities, relying on makeshift washrooms. The female members of the family lacked privacy.
Drinking water (desalinated) was not available in the building and had to be bought from private vendors at distribution points in the neighbourhood.
Her family had no choice but to make daily trips to fetch fresh water from 300 metres away in jerry cans.
❝Sometimes we stay the whole day long without a drop to drink. Water is the basis for everything and we don’t have it,❞ she said.
For most of their domestic needs such as cooking, cleaning and bathing, the family used saline water from the municipality, which was available sporadically and only for a few hours per day.
The dire sanitation and hygiene conditions and the lack of clean water had caused several health problems and the youngest family members suffered from skin problems.
This case was included in an article featured in OCHA's monthly Humanitarian Bulletin, June-August 2014 issue.
This section of the article was contributed by the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH), which coordinates the initiatives of local and international NGOs and UN agencies.