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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
28 June 2008

Refugee Stories


Drinking the Water in the West Bank village of Burin

Adnan Najeeb is a refugee living in the northern West Bank village of Burin with his wife and five children. He takes his children for testing for intestinal amoebas every three months and they always test positive for the parasite, which causes diarrhea.

About two years ago, when there was an outbreak of hepatitis in the village, all of his children contracted the illnesses, including his youngest daughter, Iman (5). The disease has since been contained, but the villagers insist that the plague of amoebas persists.

“I don’t tell my children that I think they are sick from the contaminated water. I cannot afford to buy tankered water and if I tell them that the water is making them sick, they will refuse to drink at all.”
Adnan Najeeb, father of five

This is the dilemma faced by Burin’s residents. Burin is one of 40 villages in the northern West Bank not connected to the water network supplying Nablus, for example, or the nearby settlements or Har Bracha or Yizhar.

They depend for their water on two natural springs in the village itself fed by subterranean springs. Unfortunately, these have been contaminated mainly from effluent from village cesspits, but also from Har Bracha which sits on the hilltop above the village.

While the Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG) assisted in upgrading the watering points, various efforts at installing a chlorination systems (by WHO and Oxfam UK) failed as the municipality was either not allowed to transport the chlorine gas or unable to pay for the liquid chlorine.

To avoid the possibility of contamination, those who can afford to do so buy tankered water at a cost of NIS 60 per 300 litres. Those who cannot, about 40 percent of the villagers, continue to use the water.

Hamdan (10) and his brother Mahmoud (14) go to the filling station several times a day to fill their family’s daily requirement of about 30 litres per person. Hamdan himself had hepatitis last year, but he says he is not afraid of drinking the water. They have no other choice.

The Palestinian Water Authority has drilled a new well in Awarta and, in the future, a cluster of 11 villages near Burin are to be connected to a network drawing water from that well. However, there are currently no funds for the pumping station and piping. It is not clear when the villages will be connected to clean drinking water.

Meanwhile, many residents of Burin, who are mainly refugees, continue to drink from this uncertain source, potentially exposing themselves and their children to frequent and serious illness.

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