In Gaza, essential infrastructure is devastated, medical facilities are overwhelmed and basic human needs are unmet.

Médecins Sans Frontières reports the scarcity of potable and general-use water is leading to health complications, including gastrointestinal conditions, influenza and hepatitis A. Children are drinking contaminated water directly from puddles in the street to survive and quench their severe thirst. The absence of water suitable for hygiene purposes is causing dermatological issues in children, manifesting as skin rashes from the inability to bathe or clean themselves properly.

Solar-powered water wells

Learning from previous wars on Gaza, humanitarian charities have transitioned to solar-powered water wells, which have proven to be nothing short of life-saving infrastructure.

Human Concern International has equipped six United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools across the Gaza Strip with solar-powered water desalination units, ensuring access to clean water for over 12,000 students.

A solar-powered desalination unit is an innovative device that converts salt water into potable drinking water by harnessing the energy of the sun. This eco-friendly technology leverages solar energy, either directly or indirectly, to operate the desalination process. Essentially, it mirrors the Earth’s natural water cycle, a process akin to how evaporation leads to rainfall, and transforms saline water into fresh water.

One of six solar-based water desalination units installed by Human Concern International in partnership with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and UNRWA USA. These units will provide clean water to more than 12,000 children studying in six different UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. Photo courtesy of Human Concern International

Action for Humanity has implemented a photovoltaic sustainable water well that offers a continuous solution for water supply for over 20,000 residents. Ideal for areas with unreliable or unavailable grid-based water, it efficiently provides water for drinking, irrigation and various needs. The system operates by converting sunlight into electrical energy through solar panels, which then power a pump to draw water from the well. These panels are typically mounted on the building's roof or a nearby structure.

Action for Humanity staff install solar panels in Gaza for the photovoltaic sustainable water well. One system will provide clean water for over 12,000 residents in Gaza. Photo courtesy of Action for Humanity

Action for Humanity installs the desalination sub-system of the photovoltaic sustainable water well, which is responsible for taking in saltwater and heating it with natural sunlight. Credit: Action for Humanity

Learning from previous wars on Gaza, humanitarian charities have transitioned to solar-powered water wells, which have proven to be nothing short of life-saving infrastructure, write Mahmuda Khan and @LawendyRania & @HCICanada #Gaza #cdnpolitics

Before the war, both these technologies were providing clean, safe water to thousands of residents and were vital in a region where traditional water infrastructure was unreliable due to the fuel crisis. Solar-powered humanitarian solutions in Gaza are not just a temporary fix, but a potential blueprint for a sustainable future in water-scarce regions.

During the power blockage by Israel, these systems have successfully overcome the fuel shortage, ensuring a continuous water supply. However, it has not been without its challenges. Even though our systems have not been bombed and continue to function, with the relentless onslaught that includes more than 42 bombs dropped every hour, it is only a matter of time before they are destroyed. With over 7,000 airstrikes since the conflict's onset, Gaza's infrastructure, particularly its water facilities, has suffered extensive damage. Regrettably, more than half of the water supply infrastructure set up by various relief organizations is in dire need of repair.

Similar to our initiatives, UNRWA has implemented solar-powered desalination systems at numerous schools. Amidst the crisis, more than 1.4 million displaced individuals in Gaza have settled in or around UNRWA schools. However, many of these desalination units are either in ruins or incapable of meeting the demands of the surging population, compelling UNRWA and our own charities to resort to water truck deliveries and bottles of clean drinking water.

Canada's suspension of UNRWA funding places a collective burden on Gaza's residents and hinders the agency's ability to sustain programs crucial for its humanitarian efforts supporting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The unfounded decision to halt aid to UNRWA overlooks the magnitude of the humanitarian emergency at hand. The limited aid, including water supplies, delivered by other humanitarian organizations and being allowed across the border is grossly inadequate.

Gaza's lifeline isn't temporary aid, but a sweeping rebuilding of its essential water infrastructure — because water is life and today, Gaza is out of water. A ceasefire is crucial, clearing the path for the urgent restoration of this lifeline.

Mahmuda Khan serves as the executive director of Human Concern International. Rania Lawendy serves as the CEO at Action for Humanity Canada.