"This year will be different. It's the first time that I'm not worried about winter coming and bringing flooding." - Dareen, 9-year-old from Zeitoun
As in much of the world, it's the beginning of the school year in Gaza and the Zeitoun neighborhood is crowded with students who have just finished their first day of the new school year. Among them are two young sisters, Dareen and Mariam, who are walking home together.
The new school year is always eventful for students. Thankfully, flooding is one thing the children of Zeitoun no longer need to worry about. Nine-year-old Dareen is feeling less anxious about the coming winter months.
Dareen and her sister live in a small house in Zeitoun with their parents and six siblings. She remembers how much she suffered going to school every morning in previous years, especially in winter when pooled rainwater would block the streets and they were stuck inside.
"I have never missed a class, even when the streets were blocked. But I did have to go through an adventure to get to school every morning," Dareen says.
Students across Gaza have similar problems getting to school in the winter. Children often rely on little impromptu bridges made of rocks or wood shingles to cross pooled water and mud to reach class.
"Last year on rainy nights, I couldn't sleep,” Dareen complains. “I would think of the dirty water and muddy streets I would have to face the next morning."
With generous funding from Islamic Relief USA, Anera has replaced the old, inadequate drainage system with new pipe infrastructure with greater capacity and connected households in Zeitoun to the sewage system. Heavy rains that previously flooded the neighborhood and paralyzed daily life are now manageable.
Dareen's father, Zuhair, says that in the past, "After rains, wastewater and garbage always flowed into my house. I would have to call the municipality to get rid of it."
Drainage problems also pose a threat to public health. Skin infections and other illnesses and symptoms spike in the wake of stagnant flood waters. Once, Zuhair says, "I had to visit clinics more than four times in a week, carrying Mustafa, my 5-year-old son, with me to get medication." Mustafa had breathing problems as a result of inhaling air thick with the smell of sewage.
Elsewhere in Zeitoun, Sara, 80, lives with her two sons and their children. Sara is sitting outside with her sons, enjoying the sunshine and the absence of sewage smells.
"In the past we usually couldn’t sit outdoors. Even in summer, the smell of the wastewater kept us inside. And it brought insects. Wastewater runoff would also leak into the house when it rained enough," Sara says.
Before Anera replaced the old drainage system, Sara's family had to carefully limit the amount of water they used for household chores because there was nowhere to dispose of the dirty water. Since Anera connected her home to the sewage system, they can finally wash dishes and do other cleaning without worrying about how to dump the water.
The views expressed herein are those of Anera and shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the official opinion of Islamic Relief USA, its Islamic Relief affiliates, or its donors.