UAE inaugurates desalination plant near Rafah to send clean water to Gaza

Lana Nusseibeh, UAE ambassador to the UN, launched the first of three plants her country is building in Egypt as Gazans face dangerous shortage of drinkable water

UAE opens desalination plant near Rafah to send clean water to Gaza

UAE opens desalination plant near Rafah to send clean water to Gaza
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

“Water is life” – that is how the UAE's ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh described the importance of getting drinkable and clean water to Gaza, where residents currently live on less than 3 litres a day.

On Monday, Ms Nusseibeh inaugurated the first of three desalination plants the UAE is building on the Mediterranean coast on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border to send water into Gaza.

“This is incredibly important … it is one of several contributions from Egypt and the UAE for the infrastructure of Gaza,” Ms Nusseibeh said.

A majority of Gaza’s water supply comes from a coastal aquifer that is close to the sea, meaning the water quality is brackish and often undrinkable. With hardly any fuel or electricity, water treatment plants in Gaza are all but out of function.

The UAE plants are expected to provide 300,000 Gazans with treated water daily. While that alone is not enough, it is an important step in relieving the suffering of Palestinians after Israel largely cut water, electricity and food supplies to the enclave after the Hamas attack on October 7.

At the moment, water is taken in via lorry to Gaza, adding to the burden of trying to bring vehicles carrying aid into the enclave.

“Rather than trucks bringing in water, this is a far more efficient way,” said Maha Barakat, UAE Assistant Foreign Minister for Health and Life Sciences.

With more than half of Gaza’s infrastructure destroyed and most of its hospitals barely functional, the threat of disease in the enclave is high and rising.

The World Health Organisation warned on November 8 that “intense overcrowding, disrupted health, water and sanitation systems pose an added danger: the rapid spread of infectious diseases”.

Dr Barakat told The National the desalination plant was essential to reducing illness and disease.

“We are hearing of children drinking dirty water … for under-fives this is extremely serious and we are pleased that we can help reduce that,” said Dr Barakat.

Having announced the building of the plants on November 16, the first one has become operational less than a month later and requires round-the-clock work.

Water is taken from the Mediterranean, treated and then sent into Gaza. Once all three plants are working, it is hoped that basic infrastructure work can take place to get water directly into homes that are still standing.

The UAE officials and several UN Security Council representatives visiting Rafah met those overseeing the plant during its inauguration.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed on November 5 announced a humanitarian operation to support Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Under Gallant Knight 3, the Joint Operations Command at the UAE Ministry of Defence is co-ordinating with the Emirates Red Crescent, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and Zayed bin Sultan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation to provide support to Gaza.

Updated: December 13, 2023, 2:34 AM