Gaza has long suffered from a severe electricity shortage, but this summer it has reached a breaking point. Now the residents of Gaza get only two to three hours of power per day, if they get any at all.
What does that mean?
It means that each night in Gaza City is pitch-black, except for the distant glow of windows from those lucky few who have generators. It means that hospital patients are surviving at the mercy of those same lucky, few generators. It means that what little water exists is inaccessible. Below, we list five big ways the Gaza electricity crisis has made life in the isolated enclave—already difficult—nearly impossible.
1. Water is Even More Scarce
Already, over 90% of all water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. But with the power crisis, the little available water cannot be purified and pumped up to the top floors of apartment buildings. Desalination plants can’t function without power, so the water supply dwindles each day.
Sewage networks can’t function without power, either. This has been a catastrophe in Gaza, which lacked sufficient sewage facilities to begin with. A UN report found that because of the Gaza electricity crisis, 110 million liters of raw or partially treated sewage is dumped into the Mediterranean each day.
“The electricity crisis is the main reason behind this environmental disaster,” says Dr. Ahmed Hilles of the Environmental Quality Authority. He explains that Gaza needs over 60 megawatts of power just to run pumps, desalination plants and sewage treatment facilities. This power is no longer available.
2. Health is a Luxury
Hospitals and their patients are surviving on a carefully rationed emergency fuel supply that’s in serious danger of running out, as well as overworked generators that break down often. At Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa,newborn babies are crowded onto beds in the neonatal intensive care unit, so they can reach generators that supply them with oxygen. Other patients in need of surgery are turned away, and hospitals are forced to cut back on basic sterilization practices.
It’s also been an exceptionally hot summer. Families have been sleeping on rooftops to escape the oppressive heat indoors without air conditioning or fans. Meanwhile everyday cleaning, like doing laundry or washing hands, is now even more difficult.
3. No Internet, No Work
Gaza has the highest unemployment rate in the world, at 41 percent. The youth unemployment rate is even higher, at 60 percent. Yet the fortunate who that have jobs are struggling without electricity for their phones and computers. The others, especially jobless youth, can’t use the internet to look for freelance work.
“Internet service is an important commodity for Gazans, as they cannot travel abroad,” writes Rasha Abou Jalal. Without internet access, Gaza is even more isolated from the world.
4. Crops are Dying
Agriculture has been a traditional source of income for a large part of Gaza. But in order to survive, Gaza farmers are buying expensive fuel to run generators and irrigate their crops. Now the cost of produce has risen and the quality of crops has fallen.
“I have been working in agriculture for more than 20 years,” says Gaza farmer Omar Talib. “This is how I make ends meet. The power crisis has become a nightmare for farmers. We cannot operate our irrigation systems without electricity.”
One of the ways farmers and families are coping is by using artificial “ponds” to help irrigate their crops when there is no power. They’re also using solar cookers to make meals. Without these lifelines, many would go hungry. ANERA is currently distributing solar cookers in Gaza. This summer, 160 families will use sunlight for cooking, reducing their dependency on fuel and electricity.
5. Kids Can’t Be Kids
Gaza’s children have been through unimaginable horrors. Even those under the age of 10 have already experienced three devastating wars. It’s estimated that one-quarter of all children in Gaza still require psychosocial support to cope with war-related trauma.
Living in near-constant darkness is not helping Gaza’s children cope. Under blackout, they can’t play games and socialize. Even doing homework has become a struggle, and children are having to study by hazardous candlelight.
This dark summer also marks three years since the last major war in Gaza, which killed an estimated 500 children. Yet the struggles of Gaza continue to worsen. As power becomes more scarce every day, think of the children who have been born into this situation. What will become of them?
You can help families in need.
- American Near East Refugee Aid
- To learn more about ANERA, please visit http://www.anera.org/.