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Israel’s economic siege of Gaza and its repeated bombing of water and sewage infrastructure are exacerbating a decades-old problem of a collapsing aquifer that has left 97 percent of Gaza’s drinking-water wells below minimal health standards for human consumption. Consequently, the contaminated water is the main cause of child and infant mortality in Gaza.

According to Al Jazeera, babies are suffering from severe cases of dehydration, diarrhea, and malnutrition. The combination of these diseases, plus the extreme severity of malnutrition is causing infants’ lips, faces, and skin to turn bluish in color, with their blood described as resembling the color of chocolate. Local doctors and the Palestinian Ministry of Health say that in the last two years cases of blue baby syndrome have doubled. A five-year-old boy in died in 2016 as a result of swallowing “sewage-laced seawater, ingesting fecal bacteria that led to a fatal brain disease.”

The health epidemic is further escalated because electricity is only available four hours a day, meaning that hospitals and sewage treatment plants are hamstrung, resulting in “brown water [spewing] into the sea, 24/7, from long pipes above a beach just north of Gaza City,” and the Gaza City beach feeds into the Mediterranean Sea, and as of 2004, 24 countries surround the Mediterranean Sea.

Sources:

Sandy Tolan, “Gaza’s Drinking Water Spurs Blue Baby Syndrome, Serious Illnesses,” Al Jazeera, October 29, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/gaza-drinking-water-spurs-blue-baby-syndrome-illnesses-181029110434881.html

Sandy Tolan, “Gaza’s Water Crisis Is ‘a Ticking Time Bomb,’” PRI, November 13, 2018, https://www.pri.org/stories/2018-11-13/gazas-water-crisis-ticking-time-bomb

Student Researcher: Bongiwe Bongwe (Drew University)

Faculty Evaluator: Lisa Lynch (Drew University)