Manal’s dreams of a vacation were not a luxurious summer camp or a first-class resort, but a dip in the water on the Gaza beach, regardless of pollution risks.
"It’s not that bad if the sea is polluted and someone gets sick," the 10-year-old Gazan girl told Agence France Presse (AFP) Friday, July 3.
"Exams are over and we want to have fun like other children."
In one of the world’s most populated area, 1.6 million Gazans are facing risks of serious illnesses and infections from the polluted sea.
Affected by Israel’s blockade and ban on pipes and spare parts necessary to repair Gaza’s sewage system, thousands of cubic meters of raw sewage water are dumped every day straight into the sea.
However, trapped Palestinians have no choice but to go to the polluted water to feel like normal people.
"I promised to take her to the sea after exams," Manal’s mother Um Mohammad said.
"I hope she won’t fall ill."
Israel has clamped a siege on the Gaza Strip since Hamas was voted to power in 2006.
It further tightened the blockade and closed Gaza’s crossings to the outside world after Hamas seized control in 2007 following clashes with Fatah rival.
Israel blocks humanitarian aid including harmless goods such as cheeses, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and toilet papers.
The humanitarian catastrophe created by the siege was further aggravated after Israel launched a deadly war in December, killing 1,400 people and wounding 5,450.
For Gaza fishermen, the sea was not a dream of a vacation. It was a livelihood.
"The sea is very polluted," fisherman Ismail Rahmi said. "Even the sand is polluted."
Local authorities list the harbor as among the most polluted areas along the coast.
Every day, some 20,000 cubic meters of untreated wastewater is dumped into the sea, according to Munzer Shiblaq, the head of Gaza Strip’s water authority.
Another 40,000 cubic meters of wastewater is dumped after being only partially treated to standards well below those considered acceptable for water piped into bathing or fishing areas.
"The problem is all the more serious as the most polluted zones are concentrated in the Gaza City area, where the demographic density is highest," Shiblaq said.
Doctor Juma Saqaa says the situation is even worse, warning of risks of deadly diseases.
"(Risks of) severe illnesses that could lead to death, such as meningitis, can be transmitted in polluted waters," Saqaa said.
But the warnings could not dissuade Palestinians from braving water to dip in a polluted sea as their only choice left.
"I can see the sewage water, but what can I do," asks Mahmud Diab.
"I get itchy and an ear infection each time I swim, but that doesn’t stop us from coming here to swim and have fun."
(IslamOnline.net and News Agencies)