The summer’s heat can be tough, and dehydration and droughts are common in many Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
To stay alive, people, animals and the land need lots of water, but accessing that water in the West Bank is a lot harder than simply turning on the faucet. Like many other villagers in Khalet El Mai, Hajja Sabha and Ismail Barawee relied on rainwater and tankered water to survive. With no network, running water did not reach their homes.
Life Without a Water Network for a Palestinian Farmer
Hajja Sabha fell asleep every night worrying about tomorrow’s weather. Would it bring much-needed rain?
Uncertainty and water scarcity were a part of daily life for the villagers of Khalet El Mai. Under a scorching sun, on so many occasions, Hajja Sabha walked long distances to fetch water. Though she was thirsty by the journey’s end, the 58-year-old woman would often only take a sip and save the rest for her family, crops, and animals.
“We earn our money from livestock and farming. I could see my livestock getting thirsty and it would pain me. At times I would not drink the water so I could save it for them,” Hajja Sabha says.
When it rained, several families had a system for collecting rainwater from rooftop rain gutters and in wells, but this did not provide enough water for the community’s needs year round. When the rainwater inevitably ran out, most people would pay about $800 during the summer for more water.
Then, something wonderful happened for Hajja and her neighbors: Anera’s Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development (PCID) program stepped in to build water infrastructure for Khalet El Mai and four nearby villages. This means clean, running water is finally reaching people at their homes.
“It’s my job to ensure that my family, crops and livestock are fed and that there is sufficient water for them to use,” Hajja Sabha explains. “With the extra money I save now, I will take care of my land and livestock,” adds the farmer, mother and grandmother.
What was once a dry, broken-up earth is now a muddy terrain, irrigated with water from the new water network. Seeing the land brings a smile to this Palestinian woman’s face. “Water is the best gift anyone can receive; I thank God,” she says happily.
Ismail’s Children No Longer Have to Hunt for Water in the West Bank
With only one leg, it was already hard for Ismail Birawee to provide for his large family. Eighteen years ago, the 60-year-old father lost his leg in a tragic accident. “A man only has his work. Without it, how can he be expected to provide for his family?” the Khalet El Mai villager asks. “My older boys had to leave school to find jobs so they can provide for the family.”
Like the other 4,300 residents of the village, Ismail was affected by the scarcity of water in the West Bank. His younger children spent several hours “water hunting,” as he called it. “They could have invested that time doing more productive activities, like studying or just doing the things kids do,” he adds with regret. “Each time they went out water hunting, I felt this heavy guilt.”
Together with his extended family, 22 people live in Ismail’s household. Many times, the water that was fetched was contaminated. “My younger children and my grandchildren kept getting sick,” Ismail said. “We think it was from the tankered water because we heard from others with similar problems.”
When all seemed lost, Anera installed a water network just in the nick of time for Ismail Birawee and Hajja Sabha. “I can now save more than $100 a month with this new network,” Birawee says. He is happy he can save money towards his children’s education and plant the garden he always wished for. “Water is life,” Birawee says with a smile.
What is PCID?
The Palestinian Community Infrastructure Development (PCID) Program, funded by USAID and implemented by Anera, quickly responded to the water infrastructure needs in Khalet El Mai and 4 other nearby villages. Within weeks of installing 11,000 meters of pipes, water was reaching homes and there was enough water for the people, livestock and land combined. The residents of Khalet El Mai no longer have to worry about whether tomorrow’s sunrise will bring rainwater. Visit the PCID website>>
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