Celebrating World Water Day in Nablus, Palestine
Today we celebrate World Water Day 2015, with the specific theme of water and sustainable development. We celebrate and reflect on the centrality of water in the rhythm of our daily lives. For some, it is a day to celebrate the importance and abundance of water in our day-to-day routines; for others, it is an important day to reflect on the increasingly pressing urgency of addressing issues like water scarcity and cleanliness, and confronting how we will manage water access in the future.
The Middle East is a region specifically challenged by water issues. The supply, control, and allocation of water are critical in defining the region’s political landscape and are a pressing concern for Palestine. Unlike the water challenges faced by other countries in the region, the primary issue in Palestine is not water shortage, but rather control and allocation of water resources. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 100 liters of water per person per day are needed to ensure that basic needs are met and water-related health risks are kept to a minimum. Though water aquifers in the West Bank store enough water to supply the population with that amount, West Bank Palestinians connected to the water grid receive an erratic supply of about 73 liters per person per day (even less in the northern West Bank), and those off of the water grid have inconsistent access to about 20-50 liters per person per day.
Water access issues are particularly acute in Nablus neighborhoods and refugee camps. We interviewed TYO’s Suhad Jabi who reflected from personal experience on the challenges of water access in Nablus:
In Nablus, the municipality provides a specific schedule for water access for each neighborhood. For example, in my neighborhood, water is available twice per week at a specific time, and everyone must fill their water tanks at the scheduled time in order to ensure their supply for the week. If there is a leak or other issue with your water tank – which happens very often due to lack of proper infrastructure – you entirely lose access to your water supply. In the summer, it is extremely challenging; our water use increases, but the supply remains far below meeting our basic needs. To exacerbate those issues, political tensions (most often disagreements over payment of water taxes) cause the water supply to Nablus or specific neighborhoods to be cut off and civilians to suffer.
Water allocation issues are particularly severe for those living in the refugee camps, where water access infrastructure is even weaker, and the extremely high population density is not compensated for by an increased water supply. Inconsistent and limited water access, exacerbated by small and densely populated spaces, causes many families to neglect important hygiene practices, dramatically increasing health risks. Something as simple as giving your child a bath becomes a daily challenge because of a) the scarcity and inconsistency of water, and b) the high cost and inconsistent availability of electricity to heat the water. The lack of essential resources hinders many from making responsible and healthy choices.
The UN’s campaign for World Water Day 2015 states –
Water is health.
Water in urbanization.
Water is food.
Water is equality.
We could not agree more, and at TYO we believe that every individual has a basic human right to a safe, accessible, and adequate water supply. In our Core Child education program, we teach children about the importance of basic hygiene routines as well as an economic and appropriate use of water for those. Through learning to appreciate health and hygiene routines, the children learn to value their own health and themselves.
At TYO, we also believe that our children deserve not only to have their basic water needs met, but also to enjoy and celebrate water in their lives. Nablus does not offer public parks or pools where families can enjoy water activities. However, each summer at TYO, we offer to bring our children to a local private park hosting an indoor and outdoor pool.
We also host what we lovingly call “Water Day” in which kids are encouraged to play with and enjoy water in a variety of ways. For many of our children whose experience with water access and cleanliness has been very singular and negative, the day offers an alternative and positive water experience. As the weather begins to warm up in Nablus, we cannot wait for our next water day to come around.
From Nablus, Palestine, we wish a happy World Water Day to children and families around the world!
- Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager