A family in Gaza that lost eight children over two years says the lack of sanitation around their home in al-Bureij refugee camp is responsible for their deaths.
The Salim family lives meters from a landfill in the central Gaza camp, and their home is surrounded by open sewage and trash.
Omar Salim, 30, told Ma’an that his son Mohammad pleaded not to be taken to the hospital when he fell ill with a fever and had blue spots on his skin.
"Please dad, don’t take me to the hospital, I don’t want to die like my cousins and my brothers," Mohammad said, according to his father.
Omar took his son to the hospital, where he died minutes after his appointment.
"My two daughters also died from this strange disease. All doctors failed to diagnose the disease, or to give any logical or clear explanation about it. The environmental situation we are living in is difficult, and our children and we risk death at any moment," Omar added.
"It was sewage water that killed my children and my brothers’ children. They died because of the foul smells this sewage emits and the fatal germs which spread in the area and the smoke of burned waste which intrudes our homes."
The camp mayor Anis Abu Shamala told Ma’an that municipal officials had visited the Salim family and found flies and insects around their home. Tests on the water revealed strange microbes, and municipality staff brought water sterilization equipment but the family refused to use it, the mayor said.
"The municipality asked local and international organizations to implement a drainage project in the camp," he said. The mayor urged the UN agency for refugees, UNRWA, which shares responsibility for the camp, to help remove rubbish and waste. He said the municipality removed 60 percent of the camp’s trash.
The 60-year-old head of the Salim family, also called Omar, said incinerating rubbish and sewage had caused the children’s fatal diseases.
"During the past two years, I lost eight of my children. The main reason, as the doctors said, is the fumes from burning trash. The municipality gathered the rubbish near our house, and burned it. On the other hand, the sewage is another reason as it surrounds our home. The environment here is not fit for human beings."
He added that he had filed many complaints to authorities but received no response. The local municipality and UNRWA had been piling rubbish near the family’s home for two years, he said.
Muna Salim, 50, said the death of her grandchildren was due to bacteria, germs and fungi emanating from rubbish and sewage. The grandmother called on officials to intervene before the family loses another child.
She blamed the municipality, the government and the ministry of local governance for the death of her grandchildren, accusing them all of neglecting their responsibilities.
She appealed to Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh and the minister of local governance along with all concerned authorities to remove the landfill and install a sewage network in the area.