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Two water desalination plants funded by the Chinese gov't opened this month in a poor Palestinian village in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, allowing the villagers instant access to free clean water.
Abdul-Rahim Abu Gouda, a Palestinian living in a small village in the Gaza Strip's southern border town of Rafah, breathed a sigh of relief after two China-funded water desalination plants opened this month in his impoverished al-Naser village.
"This is a joyful day for my family and we can now get drinking water instantly and for free. We no longer need to wait for trucks selling filtered drinking water," said Abu Gouda, a father of 12, as he observed his kids filling a small water container from the new plant in front of his home.
The 50-year-old farmer said the residents of the village suffered for years from lack of access to clean water.
Mohammed al-Attar, 13, came with his playmate to the plant to fill their water tanks.
"We are happy to have potable water all the time, with no need to go too far to buy," he said, as he helped his playmate carry a heavy water tank.
"Every single day, it took us at least two shekels (0.58 U.S. dollars) to buy the filtered water," said al-Attar, whose family is believed to be the poorest one in the village.
"We depend on the aid provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and we do not have enough money to buy water," he added.
Before the plants were built, the residents had to pay a large amount of money to buy potable water every year, according to Abu Gouda.
"The people in this area are extremely poor and do not have enough money to buy potable water, so they were forced to use salty, unclean tap water provided by the municipality," he said.
In June last year, Give Palestine Association, a local nongovernmental organization, and the council of al-Naser village, signed an agreement to build two China-funded water desalination plants to alleviate the shortage of potable water there.
The Gaza Strip suffers from an acute lack of water for human and agricultural use. Currently, 90 percent of its main water supply is unfit for drinking and even agricultural use. Its coastal aquifer is extremely saline and is drying up because of overuse.
The overpopulated coastal enclave needs up to 220 million cubic meters of water a year, and over 90 percent of the population rely on desalinated water.
"About 10,000 people, the majority of whom are unemployed and suffer from extreme poverty, have benefited from the two plants," said Emad al-Agha, secretary of Give Palestine Association.
The two plants "are among the generously funded projects by the Chinese government which hopes to implement sustainable development projects in a way that benefits people over many years," al-Agha added.
The NGO's official noted the Palestinian people need continuous Chinese support to build their institutions and achieve economic development.
"We are looking forward to implementing more China-funded sustainable projects that will benefit our people in the Gaza Strip," he said, as local people "need to have a real solution for the water and electricity shortages which have affected negatively their daily life in the Gaza Strip."
Mohammed Ashour, head of al-Naser village, told Xinhua that the two plants are very important because they are going to serve the residents in a marginalized area.
Ashour thanked China for providing support for the people in the Gaza Strip, saying the Chinese government funded many sustainable development projects involving power generation and water desalination.
The Gaza Strip is facing a worsening water crisis that could render it unsuitable for living within a few years if the aid projects are not implemented, according to a recent UN report.
Israel has been imposing a tight blockade on Gaza since 2007 when Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave from the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmoud Abbas.