PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM UNSAFE WATER IN GAZA
STRATEGY, ACTION PLAN AND PROJECT RESOURCES
This Strategy and Action Plan was requested by a Task Force (TF) appointed by the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), under the assigned theme, ‗Protecting children from unsafe water in Gaza‘. UNICEF engaged and supervised the consultant to develop the response strategy and action plan. Additional summary documents are the (a) Summary of recommended actions; and (b) Quick-start project lists.
This report was commissioned following the publication in 2009 of the UNEP environmental assessment of Gaza.i The report paints a panorama of environmental degradation in Gaza. Of particular concern to the HCT, it documents an alarming situation of dangerously contaminated water and a heavily polluted, toxic environment, with consequent threats to infants and children.
The UNEP report‘s salient contribution was to highlight for the humanitarian and wider aid community the extent to which environmental degradation – masked by periodic military destruction of essential infrastructure in Gaza and consequent serial humanitarian emergencies – is creating immediate threats to human health. These have been expressed and addressed as humanitarian needs rather than reframed as nascent (eco) system collapse, with multiple causes and particular accelerants, including military destruction.
In highlighting the extent to which the fast-degrading environment threatens human habitation in the Gaza Strip, the report‘s findings suggest the contours of the road map to that eventuality if concerted action is not undertaken. Situated in a higher-level planning framework, such action will be based on reframed problem analysis and joint programming to address comprehensively the dangers to children, who are most vulnerable. Equally, it will require renewed high-level commitment to remove the Israeli blockade of Gaza and put an end to the military depredations, the two primary obstacles to obtaining funds for large-scale mitigating measures.
The HCT, in calling for an inter-agency response to protect children in Gaza from unsafe water, implicitly endorsed a joint programming model. This Strategy and Action Plan were developed accordingly, reflecting the HCT‘s directive as well as good practice underpinned by global guidance and research. Referenced in guidance sub-sections throughout the Action Plan, these indicate that water contamination and sanitation crises, with their associated effects on child health status, require an inter-sectoral as well as inter-agency planned approach to achieve successful results. Mechanisms for joint programming and funding are suggested in the Strategy and project responses listed in the Action Plan.
The Action Plan is intended to be situated within two planning frameworks: the Palestinian Authority‘s (PA) current plan to achieve its Millennium Development Goals by 2015 (MDGs 1, 4 and 7), to be nested in a larger plan, in development by the PA and partners, to mitigate environmental deterioration and promote an adaptation strategy for climate change.ii Implementation of the Action Plan would –
a. improve access to safe and adequate water and sanitation and promote and support adapted hygiene practices, and
b. improve child health indicators associated with (chemically and microbiologically) unsafe water and a contaminated environment.