by Sheila Fox

Maia water projectLast December, the Palestine-Israel Human Rights Committee (PIHRC) figured out a fun way to raise money for a very serious problem: A bowl-a-thon called “Bowling For Water!” With this event and contributions from members like you, we successfully raised the $4,000 needed to purchase a purification and desalination unit for Atfal Al-Ghad (Children of Tomorrow) pre-school and kindergarten in the city of Khan Younis, a refugee camp and village in Gaza! But we’re not done yet!

The Middle East Children Alliance (MECA) coordinates health and healing projects for children in Palestine, Iraq & Lebanon. They helped to hold an election for Gazan children and asked them to choose the one thing they most wanted for their UN school. They chose clean drinking water. And so the Maia water project was created. Maia is water in Arabic.

The Palestinian Water Authority’s January 2011 report stated that 90% of water in the Gaza Strip was polluted from untreated sewage, agricultural chemicals and dangerous wastes that were discarded by Israeli settlements before their departure from Gaza. The report stressed the severity and urgency of the water crisis. Water levels are dangerously low due to the seizure and control of water by the Israeli Occupation and because of low rainfall.

MECA’s Maia Water Project is a grassroots effort conceived by the school children of Gaza. The purification and desalination units are built and installed by Palestinian companies and made with 80% local materials. This is a critical point for MECA and Afaq Jadeeda, a Palestinian NGO who jointly created the project and shares the same vision of strengthening Palestinian communities.

The units are installed in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools in Palestinian refugee camps and in kindergartens run by community organizations. There are now 38 units spread throughout the Gaza Strip. This decentralization means they are not as easily destroyed by Israeli attacks on infrastructure.

MECA is an active member of the EWASH coalition which runs the Thirsting For Justice Campaign and have endorsed the Marseille Declaration in support of Palestinian water rights that came out of the 2012 Alternative Water Forum. MECA is working for the day when Palestinian rights, including the right to water, are realized. But in the interim, the Maia Project meets a vital need and provides tens of thousands of children with safe, clean drinking water.

PIRHC is grateful for the financial support that PJALS members showed and would like to raise another $4000 for an additional water unit for the children of Gaza and their families. There is still great need. To contribute to this worthy effort, please send your checks made out to MECA and note they are for the Maia Project and send to the PJALS office here in Spokane.