The blockade of goods to Gaza imposed by the Israeli government has had crippling effect on Palestinians, severely impacting the flow of essential supplies including food, medicine and water. Restricting supplies has led to critical decline in the water supply. With domestic consumption of water in Gaza falling to dangerously low levels, people’s health and basic hygiene is put at constant risk. Conversely, in Israel, the consumption of water by people is more than double that in Gaza.
Essential humanitarian work to repair water and sanitation pipelines which are becoming decrepit is being delayed as the main service provider for Gaza, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), lacks the adequate resources to complete repairs. Additionally, sewage treatment projects face delays, postponement and cancellation, resulting in the deterioration of the aquifer. At present, only 5-10% of the aquifer meets drinking water quality standards, and further, that 50-80 million liters of partially treated sewage is continuously released into the Mediterranean Sea each day, drifting north into Israeli waters.
Yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, during the UN Human Rights Committee’s review of the government of Israel’s third periodic report, MADRE members brought these human rights violations to the Committee’s attention. Ms. Zonke Majodina, expert member of the Human Rights Committee, critically questioned the Government of Israel, “Given the human and environmental costs to both Gaza and Israel, why has the Israeli government not opened the blockade on Gaza to allow for the entry of construction materials and aid necessary to effectively respond to the water and sanitation crisis in the Gaza Strip? What steps does the Israeli government plan to take to fully comply not only with international human rights and humanitarian law?” Government officials mainly dodged the question, focusing on menial improvements that have been made to the general area. In the days to come, we hope the Committee will draft strong language in its recommendations to Israel and demand that immediate action be taken.