Power outage is one of the main problems facing residents of Gaza. The territory has suffered from a severe electricity shortage since mid-2006, after Israel bombed the only power plant. Even when the power plant was working, it was only running at about 50% of its capacity, and Gaza experienced an average of 12 hours without power every day. Today, people can experience up to 18 hours in the dark.
Homes in Gaza are not built to withstand cold winter temperatures, and with a lack of adequate heating, thousands of Palestinians are at risk this winter. More than 500,000 Palestinians were displaced following “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, and a large proportion have returned to what remains of their destroyed homes because they simply have nowhere else to go. Tragically 4 babies died last year from exposure while living in inadequate shelter without heating.
We may take it for granted that, even during the coldest of temperatures, we are able to travel to work or school easily almost every day of the year. The lack of fuel in Gaza, however, has meant that the majority of the population are unable to move around freely. Vulnerable groups are affected the most, especially those who require travelling frequently for hospital visits.
Cooking and preserving food
The lack of gas and electricity makes it impossible for families to cook and bake food, leaving many eating uncooked food, raw vegetables and bread to get by. Shops and bakeries are often unable to provide cooked goods, and cannot use refrigerators to preserve food, severely affecting food supplies.
With electricity on rotation for thousands of families in Gaza, families can go up to 18 hours a day without any means to light their homes other than candles. Students are unable to do their homework or work on their dissertations, and families in general are left completely immobilised as the darkness sets in. Tragically, many children have died in Gaza over the last year as a result of using candles to light their homes.
Using electric wheelchairs
The lack of gas and electricity also affects people with disabilities. Many of Gaza’s physically disabled inhabitants use electric wheelchairs and their movement is constantly restrained by the electricity outages. They always need to check whether the battery will last long enough to be able to reach their destinations and then come back home.
Gaza Hospitals are affected by the lack of electricity, and have to increase their reliance on precarious generators. On what this means to patients, the Ministry of Health spokesman Dr. Ashraf al-Qidra said: “Cutting electricity means more than 350 kidney patients in Gaza and hundreds of cancer and other people suffering serious diseases would face the danger of death.”
According to WHO, the waiting time for some types of elective surgery at Al Shifa Hospital (Gaza’s largest hospital) can extend up to 18 months.
These electricity shortages, along with restrictions on the import of construction material, pumps and spare parts, have left Gaza’s water supply and sewage systems completely overwhelmed. Up to 90 million litres of partially-treated sewage are being discharged into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis. Experts deem Gaza’s current waste disposal operations unhealthy, causing a serious threat to public health.
Agricultural livelihoods have also been undermined by the fuel shortages. Farmers and fishermen need fuel to run their vehicles and fishing boats, as well as other essential
equipment for land irrigation and poultry farms. Fuel shortages are therefore responsible for pushing food prices and increasing food insecurity.
The majority of households in Gaza rely on electricity and fuel to pump water to rooftop tanks. An insufficient supply of electricity and fuel to operate water pumps means that no running water is available. Taking a shower or cleaning houses is impossible. The UN has warned that the Gaza Strip may run out of drinkable water by the end of 2016. This means that families would be forced to either buy overpriced water or drink contaminated water, as many already do.
If you’d like to support our Winter Campaign and help us bring Palestinian families out of the cold, please give us a call on 020 8961 9993 or visit interpal.org – Many thanks for your generosity.