Four winners were announced at an awards ceremony for a short-film competition held by the Gaza Municipality in Gaza City on Saturday.
“The competition was our way of involving the community, particularly youth, in environmental awareness campaigns,” Assem Al-Nabeeh, head of communications and campaigns at the municipality, told MEMO.
“The interaction with the public and participation in the competition has been great,” Al-Nabeeh added. “Within two months of announcing the competition in March, we received 280 registrations.”
Fifty films were submitted on environmental issues, such as water conservation and cleanliness. Of those, nine were shortlisted.
“The promotional video of the shortlisted films alone gathered over 60,000 views,” Al-Nabeeh continued.
Votes by the public on social media comprised 30 per cent of the final result, and another 70 per cent by the judges. While only four participants received awards, the municipality plans to use all nine shortlisted films in awareness campaigns.
“The Gaza municipality faces a problem in communicating with the people,” Al-Nabeeh told MEMO. “For a year and a half now, the municipality has been adopting a new approach and opening new communication channels with the people, specifically looking at social media networks.”
The municipality has set up a new complaints system, Al-Nabeeh said. “We also communicate with the public directly using social media now,” he added.
The Gaza municipal sector has been suffering from lack of resources and tottering infrastructure prompted by the crippling Israeli blockade. As a result, the Gaza Municipality has had no capacity to address mounting concerns and environmental threats.
Gaza is threatened with a water scarcity and pollution crisis. The United Nations estimates that 96 per cent is unsafe for drinking. About 778 underground wells were damaged during the 2014 war on the Strip, of which only 162 have been fixed. Poor infrastructure has to led to approximately 100 million cubic metres of water being lost annually.
The municipality also faces difficulties to undertake repairs, as the necessary building materials are either difficult or impossible to import due to the Israeli siege and trade restrictions. These obstacles have led the municipality to look towards awareness campaigns.
“The reaction to the competition and wide participation is a clear indicator that the public wants a direct channel of communication with the municipality and wants to be involved,” Al-Nabeeh continued, “they just need us to reach out to them.”