FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Great Lake of Gaza

by SUZANNE BAROUD

 

In a place just a few miles from sandy beaches and soaring sky-scrapers, white stone villas and sky-blue swimming pools, it seems the epitome of irony and injustice that over 1.5 million people would be subjected to drinking sewage-contaminated water. When there is such a fine line bordering wealth and poverty, privilege and need, how unsettling to realize that just a stones throw away, mothers and fathers must nourish their families with poison. As if the occupier could not find one more creative way to torment his victim.

The greatest outrage is that such a reality is the decided policy of the Israeli government. It is decried by the most prominent human rights and humanitarian groups throughout the world, and yet it is increasingly enhanced by Israel and shamelessly backed and justified by the US. It is indisputable that the calamity of contaminated water in the Gaza Strip is a resolute policy of the Israeli government.

The problem of sewage management in Gaza is not a new issue, and in fact dates back to the direct Israeli occupation of Gaza in 1967. At that time, Israel built the sewage treatment facilities which are still in operation today, built then to serve a population of 380,000 people, a number that has grown to 1.5 million.

The depleted source of clean drinking water and the ever-growing sewage crisis in Gaza is leading to areas of overflow, the largest of them called “the great lake” which occupies some 30 hectares of land and holds approximately 2-3 million cubic meters of waste water.

With archaic facilities to serve a group that has nearly tripled in number, and with the lack of basic necessities such as fuel to power the pumps necessary to keep the facilities running, the result is the spillage of toxic sewage into the ground and ground water and even directly into the sea.

The United Nations publication, IRIN recently interviewed Rebhi al-Sheikh, the head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in Gaza, who stated that at present, 75 percent of Gaza’s drinking water is polluted.

In January 2008, UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur, John Dugard travelled to Palestine and assessed the situation, one that he described as “catastrophic” under Israel-imposed restrictions.

I recently spoke with Dr. Suma Baroud about the range of problems and health issues that result from the existence of run-off areas such as the great lake. She explained, “As a medical practitioner working in the field of primary health care in the Khan Younis region for the last 10 years, I have learned from my anecdotal observation that there are a myriad of overwhelming problems and ailments inflicting the health of Gaza residents, especially children as a result of the ever-growing lakes of sewage like that of the ‘great lake’ or the ‘Majari’ as we call it.

Many children are treated in our health centers for illnesses induced by infestations of small organisms such as amoeba. These ailments progress and lead to internal diseases which affect the small and large intestine and hamper or impede their functions, such as abdominal colic, diarrhea and constipation. Other complications include anemia, failure to thrive, and mental disturbances. More, we have seen growing numbers of children who suffer from conditions such as insomnia, low self-esteem and self-confidence.

Add to this a big number of patients who are treated in our clinics in summer for skin infections resulting from insects bites. There is an overwhelming problem with such insects which thrive in the conditions under which we suffer, with intense heat and standing sewage and water.

There is tremendous pressure on the Ministry of Health due to over-consumption of medications that fight these diseases and their subsequent complications.”

An uncountable number of rights groups have brought the plight of Gaza to the fore in recent weeks, including the International Committee of the Red Cross who recently told IRIN that, “The environmental situation in Gaza is bad and getting worse.”

30,000-50,000 cubic metres of partially treated waste water and 20,000 cubic metres of raw sewage end up in rivers and the Mediterranean Sea. Some 10,000-30,000 cubic metres of partially treated sewage end up in the ground, in some cases reaching the aquifer, polluting Gaza’s already poor drinking water supply.

The International Crisis Group recently pressed Israel, Egypt, the PA and the Hamas Government to do everything possible to make necessary commodities available such as fuel, which is essential to the containing of Gaza’s huge sewage problem.

In an article recently published in the California based publication, the Coastal Post, US Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader bashed Israel for its multi-faceted execution of institutionalized violence against the people of Gaza, and called the US to account for its out-right complicity with Israel’s inhuman and illegal practices: “Israel’s siege has also caused extensive loss of life in Gaza from crumbling health care facilities, electricity cut-offs, malnutrition and contaminated drinking water from broken public water systems. The victims here are mostly children and civilian adults who expire unnoticed by the West. The suffering of Gaza civilians is ignored by 98% of the US Congress, which gives billions of taxpayer dollars to Israel annually.”

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and – some would say – encouragement of the international community.”

In early March of this year, a report drafted by eight British human rights groups and humanitarian groups condemned Israel’s policies in a “scathing” report which declared that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza was the “worst since 1967”.

“As we speak, sewage is literally pouring into the streets,” said Geoffrey Dennis, head of CARE International.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said Israel must protect its citizens, “but as the occupying power in Gaza it also has a legal duty to ensure that Gazans have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care.”

She added: “Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible. The current situation is man-made and must be reversed.”

The 16-page report — sponsored by Amnesty, along with CARE International UK, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK and Trocaire — calls on the British government to exert greater pressure on Israel and to reverse its policy on not negotiating with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.”

As Amnesty’s Kate Allen pressed, the urgency of this issue cannot be emphasized enough. Spillage so great that its masses are designated “the great lake”, such abuse and mistreatment of a population regarded as “protected persons” is nothing less than pure outrage. The international community must take action immediately to ensure the protection Gaza deserves, for as Allen declared, this abhorrent action is undeniably man-made and must be reversed immediately.

SUZANNE BAROUD is an American writer and editor of several books. She is the managing editor of PalestineChronicle.com.

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail