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Palestinians Sweltering in Gaza

By Linda Gradstein | The Media Line

July 4, 2017

Palestinians take part in rally in support of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. (Photo: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

UN Warns of Growing Humanitarian Crisis

A heat wave that has pushed temperatures in Gaza Strip above 100 degrees, the almost two million residents in the Gaza Strip are suffering from electricity shortages that makes even cold drinking water hard to come by.

“Electricity is needed for everything – infrastructure, drinking water, water purification, and sewage treatment,” Shai Grunberg, a spokesperson for Gisha, an Israeli NGO that follows the situation in Gaza. “Israel also makes it difficult to get generators and spare parts into Gaza.”

Gaza needs 450 megawatts of electricity per day, she said. Today, after the Palestinian Authority cut the amount it is prepared to pay Israel, as part of an effort to retake control of Gaza which it lost in 2007, the Palestinians in Gaza are getting 163-168 megawatts were day, just over a third of what they need.

When the electricity comes on, even if it’s the middle of the night, residents rush to make the best use of the power that they can.

“Last night it came on after midnight so I woke up and I turned on the water heater for a shower,” Adnan Abu Hasna, the spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) told The Media Line. “My wife came downstairs to run the washing machine. We are in a hurry because if you only have two or three hours, you must benefit to the maximum.”

Even the beach, where many Gazans would go to cool off, is off limits. The Hamas government in Gaza has closed many of the beaches, because the sewage treatment plants, which run on electricity, are not functioning properly. According to the UN 108 million liters of untreated sewage are flowing into the Mediterranean every day. The UN said that almost 1.5 million people in Gaza could be at risk for water borne diseases.

The United Nations this week made a plea to diplomats in Jerusalem for $25.2 million to “stabilize the spiraling humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip” caused by the power crisis.”

The UN said that water reaches homes for just a few hours every few days. The emergency money would be used for fuel and for families who face food insecurity.

There is also a growing shortage of medicines in Gaza, says Mahmoud Daher of the World Health Organization. Gaza’s Ministry of Health has a list of 516 vital drugs. Of those, he said, 37 percent are down to a one-month supply or less.

“These include chemotherapy drugs and other drugs used with anesthesia,” he told The Media Line. “The effect is worse in Gaza where people are not able to maintain a normal life.”

It has also been harder for Palestinians to leave Gaza for medical treatment in Israel. Over the last few months, Israeli approvals have declined to less than 50 percent of those seeking permits.

“The complexity of the situation in Gaza is affecting people’s health and life,” Daher said “We are asking that all possible support to the health sector is given to maintain health care services and not to contribute to further suffering.”


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