Video: As siege stops pumps, Gaza children wade to school in sewage

This video shows children in the al-Sabra neighborhood in eastern Gaza City wading through streets flooded with sewage.

Some carefully make their way across stones to avoid the fetid water, while others wade right in or are carried on the shoulders of older children.

With their book bags on their backs, they are determined to get to school.

The video was shot by Jehad Saftawi for the Institute for Middle East Understanding (

Siege stops pumps

Why is this happening? As Reuters reported on 14 November:

Children waded through sewage submerging the streets of a central Gaza neighborhood on Thursday, a day after one of the blockaded Palestinian enclave’s largest waste water treatment plants stopped for lack of fuel.

Fetid muck, which bubbles up from manholes and overflows from the idle plant when waste goes untreated, could soon spill into the homes of tens of thousands more residents in downtown Gaza City, officials and residents said.

Egypt’s months-long crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply has already forced Gaza’s only power plant to stop, meaning two weeks of daily 12-hour blackouts for the territory’s 1.8 million residents.

“This is the start of a catastrophe and unless the world listens to our cries, a real disaster may hit Gaza and its people,” Gaza municipality’s Sa’ad El-Deen Al-Tbash said.

“This is a humanitarian, not a political issue. Gaza’s children did nothing to deserve being stuck in sewage,” he told Reuters.

As a consequence of the blackouts Gaza children must also study in the dark.

“Health catastrophe”

While media are reporting that electricity blackouts are now 12 hours per day, the new situation is that for many people, power is out for 18 hours daily.

On 7 November the UK charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) warned of the dire impact on Gaza’s already strained healthcare system.

With grid power so compromised, most hospitals rely on generators but, MAP warned:

The majority of generators in Gaza’s hospitals were not designed to work for up to 18 hours per day and the Ministry of Health expects to encounter difficulties in maintaining them, especially those requiring spare parts, due to the restrictions of Israel’s blockade.

The fuel crisis is making it difficult for ambulances to continue operating and hindering the ability of medical workers to get to health facilities. Its impact on other essential services such as sewage and water pumping stations also poses a public health risk. 

The video above shows that for the children confronted with sewage in the streets, “risk” has turned into a grim reality.

This is no “natural” disaster. It is the result of the sewer-like politics of the region, where Israel, Egypt’s coup regime and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority collude, with US and EU complicity, to tighten the siege and with it the deliberate collective punishment of the Palestinian people in Gaza.