Oxfam: Gaza refugees facing massive water cuts, disease

Published: 6 July 2007

Jerusalem – International humanitarian agency Oxfam today warned that thousands of refugees across Gaza will face imminent cuts in water and sewage services if more fuel is not provided in the coming days and weeks.

Due to widespread fuel shortages, the Coastal Municipality Water Utility (CMWU) in Gaza was forced to halve the water supply on Wednesday from eight hours a day to four, affecting roughly 65,000 people in Gaza's biggest refugee camp. Oxfam rushed to purchase emergency fuel that yesterday reinstated the crucial water flow into homes in the Shnti, Anan and Nezla neighborhoods of Jaballia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The fuel has also fed generators running sewage drainage pumps in the nearby Saflawi neighborhood. Without the fuel, sewage could have spilled into the streets in a matter of days, contaminating the remaining water supply, and as a result, spreading life-threatening disease in the densely-populated camp.

Despite the lifeline, the 40,000 liters of Oxfam-donated fuel will run out within 10 days. Also, other areas of Gaza are confronting similar fuel shortages, endangering water supplies, sewage drainage systems and threatening tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of people.

"The fuel arrived just in time, but it is only a temporary fix. The demand for water is especially high in the summertime and Jaballia is not alone in facing dangerous shortages," said Oxfam Project Officer Yasser Nassar in Gaza. 'We are hearing that fuel is also urgently needed to keep these critical services running in many other parts of Gaza. Without it, children on school holiday will soon be playing in streets flooded with raw sewage and water supplies for whole families would be greatly reduced."

The new Palestinian administration in Ramallah has been unable to meet the CMWU's fuel supply needs due to the recent political upheaval. While limited fuel supplies remain, the CMWU increasingly relies on international humanitarian agencies to keep its water and sewage draining systems operational at normal capacity.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Abrahamson, (in Jerusalem): +972 (0)575538537, jennifer.abrahamson@oxfaminternational.org ; or
Ian Bray (in the UK): +44 1865 472289 or +44 772 1461339, ibray@oxfam.org.uk