The Associated Press reports, “Flooding from heavy rains forced some 40,000 Gaza Strip residents from their homes… In the low-lying areas of Gaza, water has been rising since heavy rains began late Wednesday, flooding streets and homes. One of the hardest hit areas was Nafak Street in Gaza City’s Sheik Radwan neighbourhood, close to a rainwater reservoir. …Another hard-hit area was the refugee camp of Jebaliya in northern Gaza.”
The Guardian adds, “Raw sewage mixed with flood waters was increasing the risk of disease. Gaza has been unable to pump sewage for more than a month, as power plants have shut down for lack of fuel.” AP notes, “Rescue efforts were hampered by fuel shortages and rolling power cuts that have become more severe in recent months, since Egypt tightened a border blockade of the territory… Israel has also restricted access to Gaza…”
In September 2011, five United Nations experts said, “As a result of more than four years of Israeli blockade, 1.6 million Palestinian women, men and children are deprived of their fundamental human rights and subjected to collective punishment, in flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
This weekend, Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the main United Nations aid agency in the territory, said, “(Once the storm is over) the world community needs to bring effective pressure to end the blockade of Gaza, (residents there) must be freed from these man-made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.” (Though arguably the extreme weather being experienced may be less natural and more related to climate change.)
The Council of Canadians agrees. In October 2011, a resolution was passed at our annual general meeting in Montreal calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza in accordance with international law.
It is particularly worrisome the news about raw sewage mixing with flood waters.
In September 2011, Catarina de Albuquerque, the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, stated, “This reality (of 90-95 per cent of Gaza’s water polluted and unfit for human consumption) is a grave threat to the health and dignity of the people living in Gaza and immediate measures are required to ensure full enjoyment of the rights to water and sanitation. Israel must facilitate the entry of necessary materials to rebuild the water and sanitation systems in Gaza, as a matter of priority, otherwise this public health catastrophe will continue unabated.”
The Human Right to Water in Palestine