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Clean Water for Gaza: Maryam's Story

Posted on: Monday, July 26, 2010

Keywords: Palestine, Israel, Middle East, Gaza, Water Rights, Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Profile

Early last year, Israel destroyed much of Gaza’s rudimentary water infrastructure in a protracted bombing campaign. Since then, an ongoing economic blockade has prevented Gazans from importing materials they need to rebuild the water system. Contaminated drinking water is putting people at risk for cholera, typhoid and other diseases.

Right now, we are working with our partners at the Zakher Association in Gaza to install water filters in communities and kindergartens. Below is the story of Maryam, one of the many women who we are working to provide clean water for.

Maryam and her family - c. Zakher AssociationLike many Palestinian women living in the Gaza Strip, 40-year-old Maryam struggles to provide safe drinking water for her family. Israel has restricted the movement of people and goods into Gaza since 2007, resulting in a severe shortage of clean water. Gaza’s water supply is contaminated by salt and toxic nitrate. Broken water pipes allow raw sewage to leak into the groundwater supply. “Since the blockade began, my house only has water once a week,” said Maryam, who has 11 children.
“The rest of the time, we have to buy water at four times the cost of water from the municipality.” Maryam purchases water from desalination stations in Gaza City and stores the water in plastic containers, which cover nearly every corner of her house, including her bedroom. “I only use the water for drinking and cooking,” said Maryam.  “I need more water for washing and other household chores, but it is too expensive. My husband Talal works as a cleaner collecting garbage with his horse. But after rent, water and food for the horse, we have very little money left.”
Like many mothers in Gaza, Maryam worries about the consequence of contaminated drinking water. “My neighbor’s baby died from diarrhea. I know the bad water can make the children very sick, but sometimes we have no way to get clean water.”  

Maryam's children with the family's horse - c. Zakher AssociationMADRE is working with the Zakher Association to ensure that Maryam and her family will have reliable, affordable and clean water. The Zakher Association, founded and run by women in Gaza, works in Gaza’s most impoverished communities to alleviate suffering and strengthen the role of women in addressing the medical, economic and social crises that Palestinians face. With MADRE support, the Zakher Association is installing 25 water filters in Gaza City to provide clean drinking water to nearly 52,500 people. Smaller water filters will also be installed in several primary schools, and provide 1,500 children with clean water.


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