World Water Day
Every year on March 22, people around the globe celebrate World Water Day.
World Water Day in the Time of COVID-19
It’s been one year since people started isolating at home to fight off the pandemic. Hospitals filled up with new patients and communities that were vulnerable to begin with suffered more than ever.
In the refugee camps and other disadvantaged communities of Palestine, COVID exacerbated challenges that existed before the virus cast its pall. Palestinians’ livelihoods suffered and they could travel even less than usual – often confined to their immediate governorates. Healthcare facilities, already strapped for resources, struggled to meet new demands. Families grappled with food insecurity. One of the biggest challenges in Palestine, though, was and long has been a lack of access to safe, affordable, reliable water supplies.
COVID brought with it calls to wash our hands and follow good sanitation practices. But what do you do when you live in a place where you don’t have easy access to water?
Making Water Accessible in Palestine
The pandemic has made it clearer than ever that water is life.
Throughout this past coronavirus year, and for decades before, Anera’s projects in Palestine have provided access to this precious resource. Through our recent interventions, healthcare facilities now have clean water for their patients and to safely run their expensive, life-saving equipment. Families can wash their hands and keep their homes clean. Whole communities have access to water so schools, community centers, clinics, municipalities and small businesses can serve their patrons, albeit in a limited, but vital way these days. Farming families can irrigate their crops, so they, their neighbors, and local produce markets have access to healthy food.
We thank the Anera donors who make these vital water projects possible.
Griffin Abdo, a 15-year-old from Washington DC, raised funds to support hydroponic gardening at homes across Gaza. The gardens can be built on rooftops or an apartment balcony – wherever families have space – because they do not rely on soil. And they use 80% less water than traditional cultivation methods.
“Access to fresh and healthy food is a basic human right and it brings us great joy knowing that we have the privilege to aid those in need, and having the ability to do so sustainably.”
Vitol Foundation supported our wastewater reuse project in Ramallah, making 260,000 gallons of treated wastewater available every day for municipal use in irrigating parks, fighting fires, and cleaning streets. Using grey water for these purposes frees up scarce and expensive potable water for domestic use.
“Recycling wastewater is a promising, sustainable solution to the Near East’s water scarcity problems. The water reuse work Anera and the municipality of Ramallah implemented makes the city greener and more resilient, while conserving valuable resources for its inhabitants. Vitol Foundation is proud to have contributed to this effort, and were very pleased the municipality also contributed financially and technically – this showed their ownership and commitment.”
– Regis Garandeau, Director of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) at Vitol Foundation
The Stengel family is funding an exciting new project that attaches solar panels to irrigation systems on Palestinian family farms. This off-the-grid system is inexpensive and can operate easily in remote areas and rural regions where farmers desperately need these kinds of technologies. Solar water pumping also provides water for domestic use and for livestock.
On our visit to Palestine with Anera in the summer of 2019, we saw first hand the many issues that families and farmers had with access to fresh water. We believe that easy, affordable access to clean water is a basic human right. We could not be happier to partner with Anera to help the resilient people in Gaza in this important work.
Islamic Relief USA funds our major water and sanitation infrastructure work in Gaza. By June 22, 2022, through well rehabilitation, water networking to homes, wastewater network rehabilitation, rainwater drainage improvements, and community education, our IRUSA-funded projects will have improved the lives of 50% of Gaza’s residents.
“Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) is proud to partner with Anera in ensuring that Gaza residents have access to clean, safe, and reliable water systems. The global pandemic has greatly intensified the need to build long-term, sustainable solutions to improve water, sanitation and hygiene programs in areas such as Gaza, which have already experienced significant turmoil and instability. Less than four percent of freshwater is drinkable and the surrounding sea is severely polluted. We are deeply committed to alleviating the humanitarian challenges facing the Palestinian people, who are at a heightened risk to exposure of COVID if proper health and hygine measures are not taken.”
– Sharif Aly, IRUSA Chief Executive Officer
It seems the end of the pandemic is in sight, hopefully bringing better days for everyone. But water access will continue to be a challenge for Palestine. In the coming year, with the support of our dedicated and generous community of donors, Anera will be rehabilitating water wells, installing regular and solarized irrigation systems on family farms, building hydroponic gardens, setting up reverse osmosis systems at healthcare facilities, and more. As long as Palestine needs us, the Anera community will be there to help make water accessible to vulnerable families and communities.
Anera has implemented water and sanitation projects in virtually every community across Palestine. Check out some of our success stories.
World Water Day Isn’t Just Once a Year at Anera
Securing access to clean, drinkable water for all is one of the most critical priorities in communities affected by war and displacement. This achievement can’t come in the form of a handout or temporary solution — to make meaningful change, it must involve sustainable, long-term infrastructure building.
World Water Day is just once every 12 months, but it comes with a message that’s vital year-round — water as a fundamental human right, a building block of communities and a key component of public health.
At Anera, these are values that inform our work in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. As a donor, you’re supporting efforts to bring water to all — an important project that’s changing lives in a region heavily affected by conflict and insecurity. Let’s expand on the need for clean water in these communities and highlight some of the important projects your gifts are funding.
For World Water Day 2020
This is some of our recent work that addresses water scarcity in Palestine.
Rehabilitating a water well
In 2019 Jabalia’s water situation improved when Anera carried out a major rehabilitation project to improve the performance and capacity of Jabalia’s well. Now the well produces a higher volume of clean water and it efficiently serves more than 20,000 residents.
Installing desalination units on buildings
The ongoing water crisis in Gaza is alarming. Tap water is too salty and contaminated for human consumption. The salinity of the water also creates problems for medical facilities. Anera installed desalination units at two major health care centers in Gaza. Now, patients can drink the water from the tap and medical practitioners can use it freely in their work.
Hydroponic cultivation can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables at a very low cost and with very little water – only 10 to 20 percent needed in traditional systems. Gaza, with its terrible water scarcity, is in dire need of hydroponic agriculture. Anera has piloted an educational hydroponic unit with a women’s cooperative in Gaza and we are replicating it for individual families.
Water is precious and scarce in the arid West Bank, but Palestinian municipalities discard wastewater every day, often paying a fee to Israel to do so. Anera has found a way to save and reuse wastewater on a major scale. In Ramallah, a city of 40,000, the municipality can now make use of 79,000 gallons of wastewater a day for fire-fighting and irrigating parks.
Sean Carroll, Anera’s president, visited the wastewater reservoir and issued this video report:
What Is World Water Day?
World Water Day is an international day of observance commemorating the importance of clean, sustainable freshwater. First celebrated in 1993, it’s held each year on March 22. As climate change and growing inequality imperil access to resources of all kinds, remembering the importance of universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is essential from a policymaking and development standpoint.
The United Nations proposed World Water Day in its 1992 Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. Each year brings a new theme. This year, the theme is ‘Nature and Climate Change,’ drawing attention to the impact of climate change on water issues. Previous themes have included:
- Leaving No One Behind (2019)
- Nature for Water (2018)
- Why Waste Water? (2017)
- Better Water, Better Jobs (2016)
- Water and Sustainable Development (2015)
In recent years, each theme has reflected an aspect of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 — to “ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
What Is the Importance of World Water Day for Development?
Water insecurity can affect communities in even the most economically advantaged countries. However, the issue is especially severe in areas like Gaza:
- Only 10% of Gaza residents have access to safe water drinking water.
- A third of the income for Gaza residents goes to purchasing drinking water.
- Over 95% of the drinking water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption.
- Over 25% of the disease in Gaza is related to unsafe drinking water.
- Over 90% of households in the country have a tap that clean water used to flow from.
These conditions contribute to a wide range of public health issues, from endemic infectious diseases to higher child and maternal mortality rates. Often, it’s the most vulnerable members of a population who suffer the most.
Anera and Water
Addressing water issues is one of the first steps in building healthier communities. In the Middle East, where climate change, drought, waste and population growth contribute to chronic water shortages, careful management and modern infrastructure are essential. Working with local engineers and community leaders, Anera has funded and managed projects that have improved access to clean water and modernized irrigation and wastewater systems.
World Water Day is an excellent opportunity to support organizations providing on-the-ground assistance in vulnerable parts of the world. Read on to learn how your contributions are helping us improve health and sanitation in Gaza and beyond.
Our Work in Gaza and the West Bank
Over the course of the last three years, Anera has distributed hygiene kits to 8,921 families across Gaza and conducted 300 water and sanitation hygiene sessions. Over the full past decade, even more has been done. In that time, Anera connected nearly 400,000 Gazans to reliable, safe water and/or sewage networks.
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