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From the field

Testimony: Gaza Strip resident relates her family's difficulties due to polluted water, April 2010

Su'ad Kasab, 52, mother of four

Su'ad Kasab

I live with my husband and our four children - Ashraf, 22, Faten, 18, Dunia, 15, and Halimah, 14 - in a three-room house in the a-Shati' neighborhood in the northwest section of Gaza City. The ceiling of the house is made of asbestos. We have lived here for about 15 years, and all this time, I've suffered from the poor quality of the water. It tastes bad and is murky with a yellowish color. It gets saltier every year. When we wash our hands, they remain sticky, and when we wash our face, our skin and eyes burn, especially in the summer. When we brush our teeth, it doesn't feel like we've done it properly. Everywhere in the world, people shower and wash themselves and feel refreshed, but we don't. The water also damages my hair and my daughters' hair, and makes it unpleasant to touch. My daughters buy creams to make their hair easier to comb, which costs us a lot of money.

Signs of corrosion on the drum of the Qasab family's washing machine. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 14 March 2010.
Signs of corrosion on the drum of the Qasab family's washing machine. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B'Tselem, 14 March 2010./>

The polluted water also blocks water pipes, and we have to replace taps or pipes every year. The washing machine breaks down because of the water blocks the hoses, and we have to pay 20 shekels to get it fixed each time. Even when the machine is working, the clothes don't come out clean, although I use more powder and chlorine than called for. I have to wash the clothes twice, so I pay twice as much on the cleaning agents and electricity. A four-kilogram bag of powder costs 35 shekels, and three liters of chlorine costs 10 shekels. Also, each week, I spend 40 shekels to buy fresh water for cooking and drinking.

All these expenditures are too much for us, especially since we earn maximum 1,000 shekels a month. My husband works as a minibus driver, transporting children to schools and kindergartens in Gaza City. Our income isn't enough to cover food costs and the children's needs.

The problem has worsened in the past four years. We feel it when we clean the house and wash fruits and vegetables and the kitchen utensils. The fruits and vegetables are salty. It is disgusting. Our kitchen utensils were made of metal and became rusty, so I bought glass plates and utensils, which cost a lot. That only solved part of the problem because I can't buy pots or knives and spoons from glass

Water is supposed to be something simple that you take for granted, but for us, it makes life complicated.

Su'ad Khaled Muhammad Kasab, 52, a homemaker and mother of four, lives in a-Shati refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. She gave her testimony to Muhammad Sabah on 14 March 2010, at her house.