On today’s episode, we take a look at the water crisis in Gaza and its effects on the inhabitants there, particularly the children. The discussion also highlights people-to-people grassroots efforts happening here in the U.S. to respond to the disaster, along with local ecumenical projects for peace in the Middle East.
Zeiad Abbas Shamrouch is executive director of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), a non-profit humanitarian aid organization based on Berkeley, California that supports children and families in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon. He is a Palestinian refugee from Dheisheh Refugee Camp in the West Bank and is co-founder of the Ibdaa Cultural Center in Dheisheh. He was co-producer and production manager of the documentary film Promises, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2002.
Jeff Spritzer-Resnick is a Madison-based civil rights attorney. He is the president of Madison’s Shaarei Shamayim congregation and chair of the Madison chapter of J Street, a non-profit advocacy group working for a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine.
A new war would lead to the collapse of an already-debilitated medical infrastructure in Gaza, Palestinian health officials warn.
A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated and treated at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza City, after the Israeli navy tried to block a flotilla that set out to break the decade-long blockade with gunfire and tear gas canisters on September 24, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
GAZA CITY — Fear has been palpable across Gaza for the past couple of days, not only in homes but also in hospitals and medical clinics. For years, health professionals have warned of a looming collapse of medical services. If Tuesday’s nascent, Egyptian-brokered cease-fire doesn’t hold, a war would devastate Gaza’s medical infrastructure, Palestinian health authorities say.
On Monday, Gazans experienced one of the most difficult nights since the war in 2014. After Israeli special forces bungled a covert operation deep inside the strip, the ensuing firefight nearly led to a full-fledged war. The barrage of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire into Israel that followed, only made the situation worse.
It’s not just that Gaza’s hospitals and clinics are in bad shape: they are still busy treating people who were wounded in previous rounds of violence, most recently during the Great Return March. Israeli snipers shot thousands of demonstrators, leaving Gaza’s hospitals overwhelmed to the point that hundreds of patients had to make do with treatment in hospital corridors, sometimes on the floor.
Health services in Gaza have been stretched even thinner since early November, when 12 people contracted the swine flu, six of whom ended up dying. There is no vaccine for the virus in Gaza, neither in the Ministry of Health’s stocks nor in private practices, which is emblematic of a far broader problem.
Contaminated and scarce water owing to Israel’s brutal siege and bombing of infrastructure leads to death and disease.
A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank filled by a charity inside their dwelling in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 3, 2017 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
This article is the first of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The second, which examines solutions to Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Tuesday, October 30.
Gaza – The unshaven doctor with circles under his eyes enters the children’s ward at Al Nassar hospital in Gaza City. It’s a Thursday evening, almost the weekend. The ward is bleak and eerily quiet, but for the occasional wail of an infant.
At each cubicle, sectioned off by curtains, it’s a similar image: A baby lies alone in a bed, hooked up to tubes, wires and a generator; a mother sits in silent witness at the bedside.
Dr Mohamad Abu Samia, the hospital’s director of paediatric medicine, exchanges a few quiet words with one mother, then gently lifts the infant’s gown, revealing a scar from heart surgery nearly half the length of her body.
At the next cubicle, he attends to a child suffering from severe malnutrition. She lies still, her tiny body connected to a respirator. Because electricity runs only four hours a day in Gaza, the baby must stay here, where generators keep her alive.
Barely three percent of Gaza’s drinking water wells is fit for human consumption, and the crisis is claiming lives.
Mousa Hilleh, 48, rebuilt his home after the 2014 Gaza war and says not having access to clean water is a major concern [Abdel Kareem Hana/Al Jazeera]
This article is the second of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The first, which examines Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Monday, October 29.
Gaza – When it comes to survival in Gaza, safe, clean drinking water is not at the top of Mousa Hillah’s list of priorities.
Since the 2014 war, Hillah, known to neighbours and family as Abu Ali, has had far bigger worries, which are etched deeply into the exhausted face of the 48-year-old grandfather.
Dodging shell fire from Israeli tanks, he fled with his family from the destruction of his Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, flattened by Israel in an attack so devastating – 7,000 shells in barely an hour – that it astonished even US military officials. (“Holy bejeezus!” one retired general exclaimed.)
The family took refuge for months in an in-law’s house near the sea, along with 50 other people. When they returned, Abu Ali found his home – the one he had built after 30 years of working construction in Israel – utterly destroyed.
First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
Help provide a Maia Project water filter from the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to serve clean drinking water to 3,250 students of two schools and their families in Rafah. This is a joint project of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, First Unitarian Society of Madison, Jewish Voice for Peace – Madison, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.
Free and open to the public. Donations will be gratefully accepted.
Can’t make the benefit but would still like to donate? You can donate online or send a check payable to MRSCP marked “water” to:
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705