PalestineMiddle East

Like a cemetery: Chronic power shortages endanger health of Gazans

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza has warned that power shortages pose a threat to the health and daily life for the population of the besieged Gaza Strip, saying 80% of Gazans live much of their day in the dark.

In a new study, the ICRC found that electricity supply reaches 10-12 hours a day in the coastal enclave, noting that “extreme heat and import restrictions of fuel to run the Gaza power plant pose a threat to health and daily life for Gazans.”

According to the study, most of Gazans are unable to refrigerate food and wastewater treatment plants are unable to operate because of the power crisis.

It also said that 94% of those surveyed by the ICRC said the prolonged situation had affected their mental health.

The ICRC noted that the electricity supply decreased to three to four hours a day during the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza in May that damaged infrastructure.

Tel Aviv launched a brutal bombing campaign against the besieged Gaza Strip on May 10, following Palestinian retaliation against violent raids on worshipers at al-Aqsa Mosque and the regime’s plans to force a number of Palestinian families out of their homes at the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East al-Quds. About 260 Palestinians were killed in the 11-day Israeli offensive.

In the study, Palestinians describe how daily life in Gaza has become extremely difficult for years due to the unavailability of electricity where “it is almost impossible to do housework, devices frequently malfunction when power is out, there is no running water, schoolwork cannot be finished, people have to shoulder a massive financial burden to buy extra power (in the form of generators) and the power cuts even contribute to environmental pollution that impacts people’s health”.

“It feels just like a cemetery when the power is out. Pitch black. I light up the oil lamp. Even the LED lights, they are insufficient because the batteries are not fully charged. I also don’t always have oil for the lamp, and it is also insufficient for my kids to study on,” said Mariam Hunaideq, a mother of six who lives in Nahr al-Barid in the southern Gaza Strip.

The head of ICRC’s Sub delegation in Gaza urged the international community to work towards improving the situation in the coastal enclave.

“Electricity has become an issue in Gaza that profoundly impacts basic services like water supply, wastewater treatment, health facilities, as well as businesses and irrigation of crops and fruit. Particularly in urban contexts like Gaza, people’s well-being and public health conditions strongly depend on electricity, even after the fighting has ended. In 2021, Gazans should not be living like this. We are calling on the authorities concerned and the international community to recognize the situation and work towards improving it,” Mirjam Muller said.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since June 2007, after Hamas, which has vowed to resist the Israeli occupation, rose to power in the enclave, where two million people live. The crippling Gaza blockade has caused a sharp decline in the standards of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the strip.

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