United Nations High Commission for Refugees - IDIA
PhilMUN 2010 13 Another important implication related to environmental health is sewage and waste disposal. Not all refugee camps are connected to a sewer system and many households have septic tanks, most of which are improperly constructed and cause leakages which flow into open rain water systems resulting in water contamination. 42 The sewage systems that do exist need upgrading and rehabilitation. Infections associated with poor environmental health, such as viral hepatitis and enteric fevers, are still a public health threat It is important to take into consideration that access to basic infrastructure is largely dependant upon the way camps are linked to national or regional water and sewage systems. For example, in Lebanon, “the government has not allowed refugee camps’ sewage networks to link to those serving nearby municipalities. The isolation of Lebanon camps from national infrastructure systems means that camps have not benefited substantially from the large-scale reconstruction in infrastructure that has taken place in Lebanon during the 1990.” 43 Deteriorating Socioeconomic Conditions in the West Bank and Gaza There are 27 refugee camps in the occupied Palestinian territory, which constitute almost half of the total number of Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza,. This it is important to consider the effect of the socioeconomic conditions on the occupied territories that significantly affect public health and access to health services. The combination of expanding settlements and outposts limit the movement of people and goods due to the complex system of physical obstacles and checkpoints. Currently, there is a wall being built that is progressively limiting the possibilities of Palestinian residents of the West Bank to access services, including healthcare. 44 Camps and settlements within the West Bank are geographically separated from each other by forms 42 Zeidan, Ali. Environmental Conditions In Palestinian Camps in Lebanon - Case Study”. FOFOGNET Digest, 5 September 1999. http://prrn.mcgill.ca/research/papers/zeidan.htm 43 Ibid. 44 “The Annual Report of the Department of Health” UNRWA 2009.
PhilMUN 2010 14 of Israeli infrastructure such as settlements, military areas, and outposts and add to the lack of mobility within this area. This lack of mobility on the Gaza Strip, according to the World Health Organization, will result in dire consequences on the health of population residing there and “their right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.” 45 Fuel supply has been significantly reduced to this area, which has a severe impact on water and sanitation services in Gaza, which is placing public health at risk. 46 Water well pumps and wastewater management stop functioning due to fuel shortages. Due to border closures, equipment and supplies needed to repair and rehabilitate water and sewage networks have been denied entry. 47 In addition, access to adequate quantities of safe water for both drinking and domestic uses has been severely restricted for many people having serious affects on hygiene. 48 Untreated sewage is being discharged daily into to the sea, which has potentially harmful implications. “In July 2009, the World Health Organization reported that water samples taken from 7 separate beach areas in the Gaza Strip were contaminated with Fecal Coliforms and Fecal Streptococcus. Seawater contaminated with human and animal waste can contain a variety of bacterial, viral and protozoan pathogens: a danger human health, in particular to bathers and those who consume seafood.” 49 Thus, environmental health has been extremely threatened by the closures in Gaza. Another consequence of the deteriorating socioeconomic conditions is a reduced access to health services. “The interruption of energy provision jeopardized primary health care services, medical supply delivery, and, at secondary health care level, had a particularly severe impact on intensive care units, operation theaters and emergency rooms.” 50 Tertiary healthcare services are available only outside the Gaza strip and high- 45 Ibid. 46 The Impact of the Blockade on Water and Sanitation in Gaza” WASH Advocacy Task Force. UNISPAL http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/BBB5C84A39DEBDF785257632004F336E. (Accessed 11/21/2009) 47 Ibid. 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 “The Annual Report of the Department of Health” UNRWA 2009.