In the Gaza Strip, the unsustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) situation exacerbated by the longstanding blockade has been compounded by the 2014 conflict. Problems arising from the prohibition on entry of ‘dual-use’ materials, inadequate power supplies and lack of government regulation have seriously affected the WASH situation in Gaza. The majority of Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank are not connected to the water network or are irregularly supplied by it, forcing people to rely on expensive tankered water. Inadequate water for drinking, domestic consumption and for livestock, is affecting the overall resilience of these communities. The destruction of essential WASH infrastructure lacking building permits generates a coercive environment, and can lead to displacement, poverty and increased risk of disease and illness.
Muslih A’ta Wafi lives with his wife and seven children on the ground floor of a threestorey house in one of the lowest points of Khan Younis city. “In preparation for the 2018 winter season, we added another layer to the floor to raise it and prevent flooding,” said Muslih. “Unfortunately, this only prevented light rain from flooding the house, but whenever it rained heavily, our home flooded with a mix of sewage and rainwater. Last year, we lost most of our furniture.”
The increase in electricity supply in the Gaza Strip since October 2018 has improved the delivery of water and sanitation services, while reducing expenditure on fuel for back-up generators for households and businesses. This increase has also reduced the need for the emergency fuel provided by the UN to avert the collapse of key service providers.
The demolition of residential, livelihood and service infrastructure, on the grounds of a lack of Israeli-issued permits, has continued throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. In the first three months of 2019, a total of 136 Palestinian structures were demolished in the West Bank, of which 48 were in East Jerusalem and 88 in Area C, displacing 218 people, including 97 children and 57 women.
Since 30 March 2018, thousands of Palestinians have been participating in the weekly “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations near the perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, calling for the Palestinian right of return and the ending of the Israeli blockade. The demonstrations were originally scheduled to last up to 15 May, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the 1948 Nakba, but have continued on a weekly basis, and also now include occasional demonstrations on the beach next to the perimeter fence in northern Gaza in addition to night activities near the fence. Protection Cluster partners have repeatedly indicated that under international law, all Palestinians, including children, have the right to freedom of expression and demonstration.
On 25 and 28 October, the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) turned on the second and third turbines (of four available) and increased its electricity output from 25 to 80 megawatts (MW). Together with 120-130 MW purchased from Israel and supplied through feeder lines, a total of 200-210 MW of electricity was provided to the Gaza Strip, the highest level in almost two years. This facilitated a supply of 16-18 hours of electricity in a 24-hour period versus less than five hours previously.
A recent report prepared by the RAND Corporation warns that if the chronic state of emergency in Gaza’s water and sewage sector continues, an endemic disease outbreak or other public health crisis is imminent, with the risk of it spreading to Israel and Egypt. The projection is based on data collected by Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) partners and authorities over previous years, analysis of the expected impact of recent developments, and lessons learnt from disease outbreaks in Haiti, Yemen and Iraq. The report emphasised that cooperation between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Egypt is vital if an epidemic is to be pre-empted.