Under normal circumstances, the World Health Organization recommends access to a daily minimum of 50-100 litres per person. Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, UN special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, issued a warning last month, stating that "every hour that passes with Israel preventing the provision of safe drinking water in the Gaza strip, in brazen breach of international law, puts Gazans at risk of dying of thirst and diseases related to the lack of safe drinking water."
Arrojo-Agudo stressed the need for Israel to allow clean water and fuel into Gaza to activate the water supply network and desalination plants before it is too late. The UN Relief and Works Agency has announced that the depletion of fuel in Gaza is having catastrophic consequences, including the collapse in water supply, sewage, and sanitation services, telecommunications, and healthcare.
Even before the recent escalation, Gaza faced a complex water crisis. In 2020, the UN Development Programme reported that 26% of childhood diseases in Gaza were water-related. Over-extraction of the coastal aquifer, Gaza's sole groundwater source, has led to contamination with seawater, wastewater, and agricultural runoff. Ninety-six percent of the aquifer is unfit for human consumption. Lack of access to crucial components for water network and desalination facility maintenance, compounded by Israel's longstanding occupation and blockade, further exacerbated the crisis.
“People are already suffering from dehydration and waterborne diseases due to salinated and polluted water consumption from unsafe sources,” Arrojo-Agudo said. “Coupled with the massive displacement of thousands of people in recent days, this is the perfect scenario for an epidemic that will only punish innocents, once again.”
The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 64/292 of July 2010 recognized access to water as a human right, and clean drinking water and sanitation as essential to the realization of human rights.
“The deaths of children from thirst and disease are less visible and more silent than those caused by bombs, but are equally or more lethal. Israel must stop using water as a weapon of war,” Arrojo-Agudo said, urging the international community to ensure Israel meets its obligations under international law.
Despite a brief ceasefire at the end of November, hostilities between Israel and Hamas resumed. Pope Francis expressed his dismay at the renewed violence in Gaza, urging those involved to "take courageous paths of peace" and acknowledging the profound suffering and lack of basic necessities in the region.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called for an immediate ceasefire and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. The WCC's executive committee, meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, from 8-14 November, highlighted the lifelong consequences of trauma experienced by children in both Palestine and Israel. Their statement emphasizes the pursuit of a sustainable and just peace, grounded in the recognition and respect of the God-given human dignity and equal rights of all people.
In response to the crisis, ACT Alliance, a coalition of over 140 faith-based member organizations, has also issued a statement condemning ongoing atrocities in Palestine and Israel. The alliance expresses profound concern over the conflict's devastating consequences, particularly emphasizing the violations of the humanitarian principle of the protection of civilians during armed conflict.
Rejecting temporary solutions such as "humanitarian pauses," unilateral "safe zones," or partial truces, ACT Alliance asserts that the only viable solution to this tragic war is a long-lasting ceasefire. Given the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, the alliance calls on all governments to advocate for open borders to humanitarian assistance operations.