Struggle on Gaza: Palestinian ladies pressured to shave their heads because of water scarcity

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Nisreen, a Palestinian mom of six, needed to go away her house in Khan Younis on 13 December, because the Israeli floor invasion of the town intensified.

She has since sought safe haven at a close-by UN faculty, and later to a makeshift tent, with little get right of entry to to drinkable or cleansing water.

“I needed to shave my head, as a result of I don’t have any water to scrub my hair,” the 49-year-old informed Center East Eye from her tent in al-Mawasi house.

“I additionally did the similar to my 16-year-old daughter and my 12-year-old son, to offer protection to them from scalp illnesses as their pals advanced scalp ringworm,” she added.

“Shaving our head is a painful determination for any lady, however we’re pressured to do it.”

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The ferocious Israeli bombing marketing campaign on Gaza, now in its 5th month, has killed no less than 27,500 and displaced greater than 1.9 million Palestinians, who jointly don’t have any get right of entry to to wash water and very important hygiene amenities. 

Even earlier than the struggle, greater than 96 p.c of the water provide in Gaza were thought to be “not worthy for human intake”, because of the Israeli blockade on Gaza since 2007.

However the state of affairs has been exacerbated after the Israeli govt’s determination to bring to an end the water provide to the Gaza Strip on the orders of Power Minister Israel Katz on 9 October.

Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, 16 January 2024 (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Palestinian kids wait to obtain meals cooked via a charity kitchen amid shortages of meals provides in Rafah within the southern Gaza Strip, 16 January 2024 (Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Moreover, the Israeli military seized the vast majority of water desalination vegetation within the northern a part of Gaza via 30 October, and within the southern a part of Gaza Town via 1 November, in keeping with satellite tv for pc photographs from Planet Labs PBC

“We haven’t any operating water very important for cleansing, bathing, and washing garments,” mentioned Nisreen.

“I used to spend 3 or 4 hours in line, ready to fill a gallon of water from a neatly at our neighbour’s house to make use of for cleansing,” she informed MEE, describing her existence earlier than the struggle.


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On the UN faculty of Sheikh Jaber, the place she were sheltering earlier than transferring to her present tent, the placement used to be dire. 

“We queued for hours to make use of bogs,” she mentioned. “However we did not have sufficient water for showering and no shampoos.”

However Nisreen used to be pressured to escape the college after Israeli tanks approached the realm and dropped leaflets for the displaced to evacuate the college.

Now, when she secures some water, Nisreen says she makes use of it for cooking or ingesting.

“Ingesting and surviving is in fact the next precedence than washing our hair,” she added. 

In the meantime, the one water to be had for laundry and bathing is seawater, she defined. 

Water ‘a weapon of struggle’

Zainab al-Shawwaf, a basic practitioner primarily based in Rafah, clarified that the loss of hair care and washing can give upward thrust to stipulations like alopecia, scalp ringworm, and bacterial infections, in the long run resulting in the advance of hair abscesses.

“Those illnesses stem from insufficient hygiene and hair care practices, a deficiency in very important vitamins like folic acid and cortisone, and a decline within the mental and psychological well being of the affected other people,” she informed MEE. 

Israel-Palestine struggle: Israel won’t provide water and gasoline to Gaza till hostages are freed

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“Those illnesses purpose itching, resulting in lymphopathy and developing a moist atmosphere conducive to bacterial expansion, leading to pus at the scalp and additional hair loss,” she added.

Al-Shawwaf additionally highlighted the dearth of drugs within the Gaza Strip, which compounds the issue.

“We most effective have broad-spectrum antibacterial medication to be had for quite a lot of illnesses. We wouldn’t have any medicines for treating lice unfold amongst kids, as an example.”

The Global Well being Organisation has warned of the chance of the unfold of infectious illnesses in Gaza because of intake of infected water, along side the overcrowding at displacement shelters and general cave in of the well being machine.

Israel’s determination to bring to an end gasoline provides to the strip resulted in the shutting down of desalination vegetation in addition to disrupting all cast waste assortment, making a fertile atmosphere for bugs and rodents that may transmit illnesses, the WHO mentioned.

Juliette Touma, spokesperson for the UN company for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa), has warned that “water is getting used as a weapon of struggle” all the way through the present struggle.

“Many of us are resorting to unsafe resources of water…Blank water in Gaza is both unavailable or to be had in very, very small amounts.” 



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