The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) expresses its deep concern over the electricity crisis consequences on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. PCHR emphasizes the aggravation of the crisis and reducing the power-on hours for two months have led to serious deterioration in civilians’ all basic services, particularly healthcare services and environmental health services, including water supply and sanitation services. This crisis also deteriorated the industrial and commercial facilities’ work and increased the economic aggravation that the Gaza Strip suffers from.
Civilians residing the Gaza Strip have suffered from reducing the power-on hours to only 4 hours daily and increasing the power-off hours to 12. According to the Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation (GEDCO), the Gaza Strip needs of the electricity currently reached 450 megawatts, and only 120 megawatts are available (26.7%) while the shortage reached 330 megawatts (73.3%). GEDCO said that the available electricity comes only from the Israeli power lines as the Egyptian power lines broke down, and the power plant is shutoff. According to a statement by the Energy Authority in Gaza published on 16 April 2017, the current electricity crisis is due to was due to full shutoff of the power plant resulted from running out of the fuel supplies need to operate the plant and Ramallah government’s stubbornness to impose taxes on the fuel.
It has become clear that the parties administrating the electricity sector do not have real solutions to end the power crisis in the Gaza strip. This reveals their failure to administrate this sector that is very vital and important for around 2 million Palestinians, resulting in a serious deterioration in the basic services.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza was forced to reduce its diagnostic and supportive services due to the aggravation of the power outage crisis and acute shortage of fuel needed to operate hospital generators. According to the Ministry Spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra, the Ministry has entered a tough phase due to the electricity and fuel crisis, forcing it to operate the second level of generators in hospitals and reduce the diagnostic and supportive services. In case the electricity crisis continued, al-Qedra warned that 40 operating rooms and 11 gynecology and obstetrics operating room, where around 250 surgeries and cesarean sections are daily conducted, will be closed. Additionally, 50 medical laboratories and 10 blood banks will be closed as well. He also warned of the repercussions of the crisis on the health status of about 100 patients in the Intensive Care Units (ICUs), 113 infants in the incubators in addition to stop the dialysis services, which cover 620 patients who need 117 dialysis devices used 3 times a week. He pointed out that the crisis affects the medicine safety, laboratory materials, vaccinations stored in refrigerators, in addition to their impact on emergency departments in hospitals and depriving patients of safe health services.
Furthermore, the electricity crisis has also negatively impacted offering the minimum water and sanitation services to the civilians in the Gaza Strip. It has also created major crises in the treatment of wastewater and the water outage for long periods exceeding 4 days in many areas. The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) announced that the continuation of this crisis will reduce the work of water wells and pumping stations to 60% and desalination plants to 80% of their capacity. The General Director of the Gaza Water Authority, Eng. Munther Shublaq, said that the reduction of power-on hours caused serious repercussions and effects on sanitation services in the Gaza Strip. He also warned civilians of swimming in the Gaza Sea this summer because the Water and Municipalities Authority was unable to treat wastewater before being pumped into seawater. He added that it is impossible to treat properly the wastewater within 6 hours or 4 hours of electricity.
Moreover, school and university students, particularly the general secondary “Tawjihi” students, have suffered from the negative impact of the electricity outage during this sensitive time coinciding with the end of school year and final exams. The Ministry of Higher Education stated that the power outage leads to communication difficulties between schools, directorates and the Ministry particularly regarding the software such as bulletins and instructions. The power outage also negatively affects printing and preparing exams, operating the Ministry and Directorates buildings and “Voice of Education” Radio, which now revises the Tawjihi curriculum.
The electricity outage for long hours reduced the work hours in the commercial and industrial facilities, whose production mechanism depends on the electric power. As a result, the economic deterioration, which the Gaza population already suffers from, increased.
PCHR stresses that the Gaza Strip is still an occupied territory, so the Israeli authorities have responsibilities towards it. Thus, PCHR calls upon the Israeli authorities, in its capacity as an occupying power according to the international humanitarian law, to fulfill their obligations towards the Gaza Strip population and guarantee civilians’ access to the necessary basic services, including the fuel supplies needed to operate the electricity plant in Gaza. PCHR also calls upon the parties administrating the electricity sector in Gaza and Ramallah to solve immediately this crisis to spare the Gaza Strip more deterioration. PCHR also warns of the serious consequences of the crisis, which affects all the vital sectors, including the basic services, which 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip need, such as water supplies, breakdown of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, medical centers, failure of the sewage plants and education sector.