Life in Gaza in becoming more difficult than ever with the blockade and unavailability of essential services such as water. Water in Gaza is heavily contaminated with salt and sewage which are difficult to remove. The majority of the population in the strip depends on desalinated water purchased from private vendors at high cost ($13 for one cubic meter). Families with poor conditions can’t afford desalinated water; therefore depend on contaminated municipal water or water from private agricultural wells. This impacts people’s health, particularly children and puts their safety at risk. Water contamination causes serious diseases such as cancer, liver problems, renal failure, high blood pressure, diarrhea, and hepatitis.
As a Gazan blockaded since 2007 and suffering, among other things, from the water salinity and shortages, I decided to learn more about the daily life of the poor in the marginalized areas of the Gaza strip who are not able to buy potable water, listen to their problems, and try to be their voice through brining attention to their suffering.
I visited Al-Malalha village, which is located in the southern part of Gaza city. I heard a lot about Al-Malaha but never imagined that life there is almost below zero. I was shocked with what I have seen; the villagers are suffering from poverty, unhealthy life and unemployment. They are thoroughly disfranchised; they even do not have the essential basics of life including water, food and health care centers. Municipal water is not available most of the time, and when it comes, it is dirty and mixed with sewage.
Amna Ahmed Al-Mallahi, 39 , a mother of 5 daughters and 3 sons, and a wife of unemployed man, has been living in Al-Malalha village for 25 years. Life burdens are drastically affecting her family members. They have no money to buy food. Amna doesn’t receive the municipal water at all, although her house is connected to the municipal network . ‘We get water from our neighbor’s well which is so saline”, Amna said. ‘We sometime borrow money to buy this polluted water’ she added.
“The unavailability of water hinders my ability to undertake the household chores and maintain hygiene”, Amna Said. Amna’s children suffer from waterborne diseases due to the unclean environment they live in and lack of water. Amna rarely cleans her house, and her children bath once every two or three weeks. One of Amna’s sons said, “my school’s mates avoid talking to me because of my bad smell; their treatment bothered me, that’s why Im thinking about leaving school”.
Recently, a charity organization has provided Amna with desalinated water so people can drink and cook with, but Amna still need more than that to have a dignified life for herself and her family.