Gaza women resort to head shaving amid dire water shortages


Published: 2024-02-09 14:20

Last Updated: 2024-05-25 19:50

Gaza women resort to head shaving amid dire water shortages
Gaza women resort to head shaving amid dire water shortages

Nisreen, a mother of six from Khan Younis, was compelled to abandon her home on Dec. 13 as the Israeli Occupation ground invasion intensified.

Initially seeking refuge at a nearby United Nations (UN) school, she later relocated to a makeshift tent in the Al-Mawasi area. However, conditions there are dire, with limited access to clean water for drinking and hygiene.

Facing the challenge of maintaining basic hygiene, Nisreen resorted to shaving her head, along with her teenage daughter and son, to prevent scalp diseases after witnessing their friends develop scalp ringworm. "Shaving our heads is a painful decision, but we are left with no choice," she lamented in an interview with Middle East Eye.

The relentless Israeli Occupation bombing campaign on Gaza, ongoing for five months, has resulted in staggering casualties, with at least 27,500 deaths and over 1.9 million Palestinians displaced. The lack of access to clean water and essential hygiene facilities exacerbates the dire situation for those displaced.

Even before the war, Gaza faced severe water shortages, with over 96 percent of the water supply deemed unfit for human consumption due to the Israeli Occupation blockade imposed since 2007. The situation worsened when the Israeli Occupation government, on Oct. 9, decided to cut off the water supply to Gaza.

Additionally, satellite images show that the Israeli Occupation army seized control of most water desalination plants in Gaza's northern and southern regions by the end of October and early November.

Nisreen recalled the struggle of waiting in line for hours to fill a gallon of water from a neighbor's well before the war. "We have no running water for cleaning, bathing, or washing clothes," she emphasized, highlighting the daily challenges faced by Gazans amidst the ongoing war.

At the UN school of Sheikh Jaber, where she had sought shelter before moving to her current tent, conditions were dire. "We queued for hours to use toilets," she recalled. "But we didn't have enough water for showering and no shampoos." However, Nisreen was compelled to leave the school when Israeli tanks approached the area and dropped leaflets instructing the displaced to evacuate.

Now, when she manages to secure some water, Nisreen prioritizes its use for cooking or drinking. "Drinking and surviving is, of course, a higher priority than washing our hair," she remarked. She explained that the only water available for washing and bathing is seawater.

Zainab Al-Shawwaf, a general practitioner in Rafah, emphasized the health risks associated with inadequate hair care and hygiene. She warned that conditions like alopecia, scalp ringworm, and bacterial infections could arise, leading to hair abscesses. Al-Shawwaf also highlighted the shortage of medicine in Gaza, exacerbating the problem.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cautioned about the potential spread of infectious diseases in Gaza due to contaminated water, overcrowding in displacement shelters, and the collapse of the health system. The decision by the Israeli Occupation to cut off fuel supplies to the strip has further worsened the situation, leading to the shutdown of desalination plants and disruptions in solid waste collection.

Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), has condemned the use of water as a weapon of war in the current war. She warned that many people in Gaza are resorting to unsafe water sources due to the scarcity of clean water.