We are thrilled to announce the completion of 13 new Maia units that purify and desalinate water at schools and kindergartens throughout Gaza. These 13 units provide safe, clean drinking water to 16,880 children.
Below is the list of schools and number of students at each:
Below are a few photos of the children at these school drinking clean, safe water thanks you and the many generous supporters of the Maia Project!
We have also made repairs to the all of the units at schools across the Gaza Strip that were damaged due to the bombing of Gaza’s only electricity plant, direct damage from shelling, or overuse. We are still working on assessing and repairing the 26 units at kindergartens and hope to finish this work in the coming two months.
We have a lot of updates about our work providing clean water in Gaza, all made possible with your support! Here is an overview of what we have been up to plus some photos and stories from our project coordinator in Gaza during her visit to the schools where we installed water purification and desalination units.
Since 2009, MECA has installed water purification and desalination units in 26 UNRWA schools and 26 community kindergartens throughout Gaza. MECA’s new water engineer, Safaa El-Derawi, was able to visit most of the schools in the early weeks of the attacks to check on the units and test the water quality. Since the ceasefire, Safaa has been visiting all the schools to examine the units and make arrangements for repairs.
At the beginning of the Israeli bombing, 16 of our Maia units were providing clean, safe drinking water for displaced families that sought shelter in UNRWA schools. Some of these units stopped working a few weeks later due to the bombing of Gaza’s only electricity plant, direct damage from shelling, or overuse. At that point the water tanks MECA installed were used to store clean drinking water when it was delivered to the shelters. MECA also provided funds to our partner, Afaq Jadeeda Association to distribute water from their own Maia unit to families at shelters in the nearby refugee camps.
Three of the schools where we have water units are still serving as emergency shelters. These units are under repair. In the meantime, the schools are using our tanks and filling them with purified water delivered daily.
One school was very badly damaged during the massacre in Shejayia neighborhood and the water network in the area was also destroyed. We will finish repairs of the unit once the water network is repaired.
The remaining 22 water purification units at UNRWA schools have all been repaired and undergone routine maintenance and they are providing clean drinking water for schoolchildren daily. Some of these units were damaged by Israeli shelling or the pumps were destroyed by the irregular power currents after Israel bombed the only power station in Gaza.
We are still completing the site visits and evaluation of all the kindergartens where we have water purification units. Some of these kindergartens are in areas so severely devastated that our staff could not reach them by road even weeks after the ceasefire was in place.
The following are some first-hand accounts of the visits to schools where MECA installed water purification and desalination units by Safaa El-Derawi
We are now living the real tragedy. The shelling is over but not the destruction and homelessness. Sadness and pain are everywhere in Gaza.
Jabalia Girls Elementary School:
I traveled north from my home in Nuseirat Refugee Camp to check on the MECA water purification and desalination unit at Jabalia Girls Elementary School. I expected to find the unit destroyed since I knew the school was bombed during the aggression on Gaza. But I was surprised to find that the unit was still intact.
Mr. Abu Yousef, who works as a services employee at the school, told me "Thousands of families sought safety at the school in the early days of the attack and the MECA unit was providing them with part of their need for clean drinking water. After the power station was bombed there were power outages all over the Gaza Strip and the water unit stopped working. We stayed without water for two days and then we had to separate the storage tanks from the purification unit to be filled with water provided by the UN."
Though the school year started weeks ago in Gaza, this school is still serving as a shelter for displaced families. I met a young girl named Islam who is nine years old and lives with her family at the school. She described what happened with her family during the attacks:
"We lived in the eastern part of Jabalia village and we were asleep when the Israeli shells fell on our house. I was very scared and cried a lot. My father carried me and my little sister and outside. All the neighbors were screaming and fleeing from the shells. My mother and neighbors raised white flags in order to stop the bombing, but it didn’t stop. I saw the children and adults on the ground lying in blood. We came to this school for shelter, but then it was also bombed and we fled to the street.
After the ceasefire, we went back to our house and we did not find it. We did not find anything, not even my clothes and my toys. I wish to return to our house and go to school and play with the kids like I used to. "
Shejayia Co-ed Elementary School
I went to Shejayia neighborhood during one of the humanitarian ceasefires this summer and was shocked by the large destruction and the smell of death everywhere. The destruction was so massive that I could not reach the school where MECA installed a water purification unit because of the rubble in the roads.
I returned after the end of the aggression. Everything about my visit there made me sad. In the past, the overcrowding in the neighborhood used to make it difficult for me to access the school. But this time the empty streets troubled me. No noise. No congestion. No life. Only destruction and rubble.
I arrived to school and found it had been largely destroyed due to indiscriminate shelling during the Shejayia massacre. Mr. Abu Raed Amasi works at the school and told me that they collected all the broken pieces of the water purification unit. He hopes that we can repair the unit to be used after the restoration of the school and I promised we would.
Beit Hanoun Boys Prepatory School
I visited Beit Hanoun after the end of the Israeli attacks and met Zainab, mother of two, who was taking shelter at the school. Zainab explained what happened to her family. She said: "We escaped from the Israeli bombing which destroyed our house and our land and we came to the school. At first we slept on the ground and there was no water, no food. Now they give us food and water to drink and we have blankets. But every day I need to treat my children. Diseases have spread here and we cannot do anything. We do not know what our future is!!"
You may have seen some of the recent headlines about the worsening water crisis in Gaza as Israel bombs civilian infrastructure including water networks. We wanted to share with you how your support for the Maia Project is making a concrete difference for families in Gaza during this terrible time.
More than 200,000 people in Gaza are currently living in emergency shelters after their homes were destroyed or their neighborhoods became too dangerous. Many of these shelters are UN schools were MECA has installed water purification and desalination units.
MECA Project Director in Gaza wrote:
"When I think about these families sleeping in the schools it makes me really sad. Just a few weeks ago, MECA was planning to support summer camps for children in the UN schools and our water purification and desalination units were going to serve the summer camps. But now, more than one hundred thousand people are living in these UN schools with their families. With the water crisis worsening under the bombing, I’m so glad that in 16 of the schools, our water units are providing clean water for the families."
Safaa El-Derawi, an environmental engineer working as MECA's project assistant in Gaza, has been in touch with each school where we have a water unit to make sure the units are working properly and providing safe, clean water to families. Here is a list of UN schools sheltering families in Gaza provided to Safaa last week. The number of displaced families and schools where Maia Project units has increased since then but Safaa hasn't been able send us the updated list as it is too dangerous for her to go to the office and she has very irregular internet and electricity from home.
We also wanted to mention that we have set up a special page on Global Giving to collect funds for emergency relief in Gaza. Our team is distributing food, milk, and hygiene kits to displaced families. And we are providing funds for hospitals and clinics throughout Gaza to purchase vital medicine to treat the injured and sick. There are now more than 6000 people injured in Gaza by Israel's assault, 1/3 of them children according to the latest UN figures, and hospitals are running short of supplies. Additionally with the overcrowding in emergency shelters, the sanitation is poor and is causing diarrhea in children and the spread of other diseases. Please consider a donation to our emergency relief fund: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/emergency-aid-for-children-in-gaza/
With your support, the Maia Project continues to grow and provide safe, clean water to children in the Gaza Strip. We are thrilled to report that this summer 13 new water purification and desalination units will be built and installed in schools and kindergartens including one at a school for the visually impaired.
We are also working hard to ensure the 52 water purification units built in previous years continue to provide safe, clean water to 50,000 children. MECA's Gaza Project Assistant, Safaa El-Derawi, regularly visits the schools and kindergartens to test the water quality and troubleshoot and request repairs if there are any issues.
We have also continued our efforts to educate children about the water crisis in Gaza, the potential dangers of the contaminated water, and how these purification units work. This spring, Safaa visited 18 schools and led workshops with students, teachers, and headmasters. As a water engineer, Safaa is very knowledgeable on the subject and able to answer all of the tough questions that come her way. We were excited when she told us that the students asked tons of questions because we know they are learning if they are asking questions!
Thanks to your support, MECA's Maia Project is now providing clean water to more than 50,000 children in Gaza every single day. This fall, we installed 14 new water purification and desalination units in schools and kindergartens bringing the total number of purification units to 52. You can check our website for a full list of locations and beneficiaries.
We're also excited to announce the addition of Safaa El-Derawi to our team in Gaza. Safaa is a water engineer born and raised in the Gaza Strip. She will be making regular visits to all of the schools and kindergartens where we have installed water units to test the water, overseeing any repairs and maintenace necessary, leading workshops about the water crisis in Gaza, and explaining to staff and students the dangers of unpurified water to their health.
The children and their families join MECA in thanking you for supporting this important project!
"There was no drinking water in the school. But now the water is available all the time, and I bring with me a bottle to take clean water with me after leaving school." - Ahmed, Deir Al-Balah Boys Preparatory School
"We thank MECA for providing healthy water for the kids. Previously we used to buy drinking water and often it was salty and we didn’t trust its quality. But now we are certain that our kids are drinking clean and safe water. Sometimes students come from neighboring school to drink from MECA unit." - Headmaster, Rafah Children's Kindergarten
"In the past, the taste of water was unacceptable and there was a chlorine taste, sometimes we were forced to drink it because there is no alternative, but now the water we drink from the desalination plant is tasty and clean. Thank you very much." - Alaa, Rafah Girls Preparatory School
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Director of Gaza Projects