The water situation in the West Bank

Water and peace – these two elements stand in the centre of this year’s World Water Day. However, for many people, including Palestinians in the West Bank, these ideals remain distant amid widespread suffering and destruction, with access to safe drinking water remaining a daily struggle. The limited access to water resources exacerbates tensions, hindering peaceful coexistence. 

Addressing the water crisis goes beyond infrastructure; it’s about recognising the dignity and rights of all individuals. Ensuring equitable access to water for all paves the way for trust-building and reconciliation. Heyam Mahmoud, a school principal in one of the hands4health project schools in Hebron, emphasises the need for complete peace, stating:

“We don’t need a World Water Day to celebrate in the midst of devastating wars, killings, and destruction. What we truly need is complete peace that allows humans to live a dignified life.” 

Heyam Mahmoud, School Principal in one of the hands4health project schools in Hebron

In the pursuit of water security, inclusive and sustainable solutions are essential, prioritising the needs of all people, also those living under occupation. In May 2023, the Israeli NGO B’Tselem released an analysis of the water situation in Palestine, revealing how water has been manipulated as a tool of control in the West Bank since 1967. Bader Shwiki, another school principal highlights the challenges faced by his community, stressing the urgent need for action:

“Shortage of water in Hebron has been a problem since 2018. Since last summer, it has become a serious issue because 30 percent of Hebron’s and Bethlehem’s portion of water was cut down. As a result, many Hebronite families, establishments, and farms were obliged to buy water, which costs more than usual.” 

Bader Shwiki, School Principal in one of the hands4health project schools in Hebron

Hands4health implementation updates

For the past three years, the Cesvi and Palestine Polytechnic University (PPU) teams have been working tirelessly to improve the water and sanitation systems in schools in Hebron, in the southern West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, under the broader hands4health project’s framework in Palestine. The escalation of violence and insecurity has been posing numerous challenges to the field teams, who are facing extreme difficulties to reach the schools. Considering this context, some of the hands4health activities had to be put on hold. Cesvi has been continuously assessing the security situation and adapting the implementation activities accordingly, placing the highest priority on the safety of the project team. 

So far, the following implementation achievements can be listed for Palestine:

  • Behaviour change campaigns:RANAS activities have been implemented in 14 intervention schools, targeting a total of 788 students. 
  • Water quality monitoring: 22 schools received chlorine meters for measuring the free residual chlorine in the water. The free chlorine measurements to assess drinking water quality on school premises are currently being collected by teachers and staff of the schools. 
  • Rehabilitation of WASH infrastructure: The Cesvi team has completed the maintenance work in 18 schools between February – May 2023. The work was divided into two phases, each comprising 9 schools. The rehabilitation work took place mainly in Hebron, as well as in one school in Ramallah, and included: installation of flush tanks, water tanks, western toilets, pressure pumps, ceramic wall tiles, water saving taps, connection pipes, wash basins, handicap toilets and soap dispensers.  
  • Preventive maintenance: The preventive maintenance is a way to guarantee the sustainable use of the WASH facilities in schools. It is implemented through a service provider who carries our regular visits and inspections in the schools to do minor repair works, increase the percentage of functional facilities, minimise water losses and reduce the overall emergency situation. The preventive maintenance activities started in September 2023 and are scheduled to end in March 2024. So far, 14 schools have been targeted. 
  • Endline data collection: The endline data collection was planned to take place in 26 schools around this time. Due to the current security situation, the many checkpoints and the dangerous movement between schools, a reduced data collection is scheduled for April 2024. 

If the security situation permits, Cesvi and PPU will finalise the implementation phase, carry out the endline data collection and then replicate the intervention to the control groups.