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West Bank: ICRC helps Bedouins facing acute water shortage

10-07-2008 News Release 08/126

Jerusalem / Tel Aviv (ICRC) – After three successive years of drought and a very cold winter, Bedouin and herder communities in the occupied West Bank are on the brink of an emergency, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned today.

Their plight is aggravated by tightened restrictions on movement imposed by the Israeli authorities. Israeli settlements, bypass roads, military zones, nature reserves – all are preventing herds from moving and gaining access to free grazing areas and to water, a crucial factor for the livelihood of some 50,000 Bedouins and herders living in the West Bank.

The ICRC has started an emergency distribution of water for 1000 people and their 50,000 sheep in the southern district of Massafar Yatta, which is one of the worst-affected areas.

" Herders have less and less access to grazing land for their livestock, " said Katharina Ritz, head of the ICRC's mission in Jerusalem. " And the land to which they do have access just isn't enough because it's overgrazed and there have been frequent droughts. "

Many have had to reduce the size of their herds since they could not find enough food and water for them. Animal health problems and a fourfold increase in fodder prices have made life even more difficult.

" The ICRC is seeking a more sustainable solution than trucking in water, " said Ritz. " But we were left with no choice – in the short term there is no alternative for these destitute communities. "

The ICRC will continue distributing water until other organizations take over. In the longer term, it plans to help the herders to cope with veterinary problems and provide assistance to better overcome the deteriorating situation. 

  For further information, please contact:
  Helge Kvam, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
  Iyad Nasr (Arabic), ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 8 28 28 874 or +972 59 960 30 15
  Yael Segev-Eytan (Hebrew), ICRC Tel Aviv, tel: +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18