- Published on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 10:00
Curious children look out the window from their house in Bani Suheila as Oxfam engineers and staff from local partner Palestinian Environmental Friends (PEF) make the final assessment of the road before starting works to link houses to the sewage network.
Funded by Muslim Aid, the project will solve the number one problem afflicting around 5,000 people living in the crammed neighbourhood on the outskirts of Khan Younis, which has been largely neglected for decades. All of the families here rely on underground septic tanks to dispose of their sewage, but most of this ends up flooding their own roads in the rainy season and whenever tanks are overused.
Ismaiya Abu Thabet, mother of seven children living in Bani Suheila, told Oxfam: "Our biggest problem here has always been sewage. Our roads end up flooded with sewage affecting everyone – young and old. You find all the diseases related to sewage here. I've been living here since 1985 and it's always been like that. Our children have to walk to school in streets flooded with sewage. There have been children who drowned in sewage tanks that were opened with the floods. I'm worried all the time about the children. To do the shopping I have to walk in sewage. Sometimes we just don't get out of the house because of the sewage."
For Ismaiya, the problem affects her directly as mother and housewife, taking up most of her time.
"Every day I have to wash the floor at least once, and remind my children to clean their feet before entering," she said. "In fact I don't allow anyone to come in wearing shoes because it's a health hazard when our roads are in this state. It would make us all sick."
Ismaiya's neighbours said they could still barely believe that they will finally get rid of their problem. The project also includes an ongoing public health campaign involving the entire community.