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Israel, the occupied and autonomous territories: preparing for urban water emergencies

07-03-2003 News Release 03/26

On 24 February an initial "water and sanitation emergency preparedness" training session was held in Ramallah for volunteers and professionals of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS).

The training is being provided under a new cooperation programme involving the ICRC's water and habitat unit and the PRCS's disaster management and coordination unit.

As part of this programme, the ICRC will donate mobile reservoirs, water-distribution ramps, water-testing kits and water-treatment chemicals and provide the technical assistance needed to ensure that this material is effectively used in responding to urban water emergencies. Once assembled, the equipment can provide water-distribution facilities serving up to 5,000 people for several days.

Urban populations are particularly vulnerable to water shortages in times of disaster or armed conflict. Last spring, during Operation Defensive Shield and the subsequent incursions by Israeli forces, households and hospitals in Palestinian cities like Ramallah and Jenin experienced serious shortages when military vehicles damaged the main water pipes by digging trenches and erecting earth walls. At the time, ICRC delegates organized water deliveries to hospitals and escorted municipal water-board teams sent out to repair the pipes.

" Our volunteers are very eager to receive such training, which will enable us to provide effective and quick relief for the population in times of emergency, " said Hassan Basharat, head of the PRCS disaster management and coordination unit. Further sessions will be held in Jenin, Jericho, Nablus, Hebron and Rafah in the weeks ahead.

 The ICRC water and habitat programme is part of a large-scale temporary assistance effort undertaken last May to alleviate the plight of civilians following the escalation of violence in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories.  

 Further information: Ronald Ofteringer, Jerusalem, tel: ++ 972 2 582 8845  

 Nada Doumani, Geneva, tel: ++ 41 22 730 27 56