Posted by: NCC Poverty Initiative Director | November 16, 2010

Thirsty in a Palestinian Refugee Camp

Sanitation is a Struggle with no Infrastructure

When I am not working as an eco-justice fellow at the NCC-USA, I serve on the board of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), a global Federation of 106 national Student Christian Movements that engage over 2 million youth in contextualizing Christian theology, engaging in dialogue, and working for justice. I have just returned from our global eco-justice conference, where we visited Shatila Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon.

“It took us years to gain reliable water access,” a human rights worker told our group of youth and students.  “We dug two wells ourselves with international donations, but neither of them had proper sanitation.”  One in three children in the camp have chronic illness.  From the camp’s beginnings in the 1960’s until two years ago, residents of the camp were among the billion people around the world who lack access to clean water.  The Lebanese government, in partnership with European foreign aid, finally brought plumbing to the camp in 2008, with rubber pipes suspended in the open air.

Remnant of one of the failed attempts at making a well to serve the camp's water needs

Of all the water in the world, only 1% is suitable for drinking.  It was only on July 28, 2010 that 122 countries in the United Nations Human Rights Council General Assembly declared water as a human right.  The significance of clean drinking water being understood by all as a human right is not restricted to the global South.  Threats to drinking water in the U.S. are ongoing and pervasive.  Rural poor communities and migrant workers often struggle for clean water access. Improperly disposed of chemicals, animal wastes, pesticides, human wastes, wastes injected deep underground for mining and construction purposes, and naturally-occurring substances such as arsenic can all contaminate drinking water. Click here to read more about how you can help conserve and protect the 1% of the water our global community must share. Click here to read more about the Ecumenical Water Network’s efforts to organize the global Church to confront the water crisis.

For more information about the struggles and hopes of the Shatila Palestinian Refugee camp, click here.


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