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

Refugee Stories

No Running Water for Dheisheh Residents

Dheisheh Camp, West Bank, June 2008

For the last 15-20 days(1), people living in the highest parts of Dheisheh camp have not received running water. "When people have no water, they come to friends’ and relatives’ houses, located lower down in the camp, to fill jerry cans and carry them back home," says Mohammad Adawi, UNRWA’s Hebron Area Sanitation Officer.

The water supply in Dheisheh is greatly affected by the seasons. Like other camps and towns in the Palestinian territory connected to the water network, Dheisheh residents tend to have water on tap 24 hours a day during the winter months. From May to October, however, people have become accustomed to bracing themselves for a water shortage, particularly residents who live in high-lying areas.

The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), which regulates the water supply to Dheisheh, has seven wells in the Bethlehem and Hebron Governorates. Three of these wells are currently out of order, severely impacting the supply of water to consumers.

In an attempt to mitigate the effects of the scarce and unpredictable availability of water, each house in Dheisheh has one or more water tanks on the roof. Residents use a pump to raise the water – which runs through hoses - from ground-level up to the storage tanks. Because these pumps are activated manually, even when water becomes available the house-holder needs to be present to switch the pump on so that the water can flow into the tanks on the roof. "Sometimes filling the tanks can take all night," says Mohammad Adawi.

Limited access to water is making life’s daily necessities particularly challenging. "I haven’t been able to have a bath for the last 25 days. Just look at me," says Abu-Abed.

Um-Mahmoud tells us she has been doing the laundry at her daughter’s home.

"I bought two water tankers [water delivered by private tanker] 15 days ago for my family," says Abu-Osama.

Hebron Area Sanitation Officer Mohammad Adawi explains that each water tanker provides 8m3 of water and costs around NIS 300.

"Look at my hands," says Um-Mohammad [her hands look dry and are covered with a whitish film], "I have no water to wash them with."

As for elderly Haj Nassem, he has been obliged to solicit the help of the younger generations. "I send the young boys to the mosque to get water for me. I pay them one shekel per jerry can," he says.

"Even when the PWA promises that the water will come ‘today’, it is often delayed," explains Mostafa Younes, Dheisheh Camp Service Officer. Efforts to work with the PWA to coordinate a systematic schedule whereby Dheisheh residents will know in advance the days on which water will be available have yielded no marked results to date. This makes it very difficult for residents to predict when they can fill their tanks and when water will next run from their taps.

By Vicky Samantha Rossi

[1] This visit to Dheisheh camp took place on Thursday 22

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