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Israel and the occupied / autonomous territories: Water for isolated villages in the West Bank

27-09-2002 News Release

Over 250 West Bank villages not linked up to the general water distribution network experience water shortages on a regular basis.

To offset the problem, water is collected on roofs in the winter and stored in underground tanks. Even though it is used sparingly, the supply runs out in the summer and more water has to be brought in by tanker truck.

This system has worked relatively well despite the sometimes fivefold increase in the price of water it entails. But with the recent closures, which have cut many villages off from the outside, the prolonged curfews, the restrictions placed on the movement of people and vehicles and above all the drastic decline in purchasing power affecting the area, a serious water shortage has been looming for hundreds of West Bank families.

To assist these families, the ICRC launched a water-distribution programme in August. The programme, which is to continue until the rainy season begins in November, will provide up to 2,000 households in the West Bank with enough water to cover their basic needs (20 litres per person per day). The ICRC has already concluded contracts clearly setting out the terms of the operation – in particular the cost and quality of the water to be distributed, and the name of the conveyor – with the municipal councils of 14 villages in the Hebron district, where water is particularly scarce. So that no one feels deprived, each household is to receive the same amount of water (five cubic metres per month). In some cases, the ICRC has agreed to coordinate the operation with the relevant authorities to ensure that the tanker trucks can reach isolated houses situated near Israeli settlements.

This operation is part of a larger relief effort undertaken to meet the urgent needs of the civilian population affected by the ongoing violence and to offset the consequences for the Palestinians of the disastrous economic situation.