In 2013, 1for3 brought a team of water experts from Tufts University to assess the situation at Aida Refugee Camp in the West Bank. The team held meetings to gauge community interest in environmental and public health issues. The theme that recurred in every group meeting was simple and direct: the need for reliable, clean water.
Aida residents expressed concerns over their water quality despite data from the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) showing the water had no significant levels of bacteria. E.coli and total coliform bacteria are common forms of sewage contamination in drinking water. Some symptoms of prolonged exposure to these bacteria include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
With help from the Tufts team, 1for3 trained members of the local nonprofit Lajee Center to test for bacteria and found contamination in Aida Camp. Equipped with this, the Lajee Center questioned the UNRWA's testing methods, initiated public awareness programs, and provided tank cleaning services. Growth of bacteria can intensify over the summer, when water supply is less reliable and residents store their water in rooftop tanks exposed to the heat.
In response to the initial assessment, 1for3 also:
Distributed new water tanks to those in dire need, providing 29 tanks in 2013 alone, Helped finance the building of a 50m3 cistern to provide drinking water to Aida residents,
Helped build four rooftop gardens for families identified as food insecure in 2013.
Since then, 1for3 has shifted its previous focus from Africa to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, beginning with Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.
Beginning with water quantity and quality, 1for3 has implemented an array of programs — addressing health care, food security, recreation, media outreach, and education — at Aida. We hope to expand this model of locally-directed programs to other Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and, where possible, beyond.