File - A boy sits in front of the UNRWA clinic at the Shabriha Palestinian refugee camp in the southern city of Tyre, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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Despite major infrastructure investments in water by international donors and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency aimed at improving quality and access, many Palestinians remain skeptical of projects requiring them to make financial contributions for UNRWA services.While the Mar Elias treatment center is now fully operational and financially self-sustaining from community subscriptions, the Shatila center remains a work in progress.The water treatment centers were designed to transform salt water into potable water, providing reliable drinking water to residents for a small fee.In Mar Elias, each household pays a monthly fixed LL20,000 ($13) subscription fee in exchange for 200 liters of potable water a day.Mohammad Abdel-Al, who heads the Field Infrastructure and Camp Improvement Program at UNRWA, noted that Mar Elias' subscription fee was cheaper "than any potable water in the country," adding that water treated in the reverse osmosis center will meet World Health Organization standards.During a recent visit to the water treatment centers in Mar Elias and Shatila, one resident was vocal in expressing his dissatisfaction to an UNRWA employee, saying he would rather continue buying water from local vendors than subscribe to UNRWA's system. He acknowledged the water quality may be compromised, but insisted it was better to pay a vendor than for UNRWA-supported services.
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