The UN and the World Health Organization both warned that Gaza was on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, Rebecca Ratcliffe reported in the Guardian in January, 2018. Under current conditions, electricity is available for three to six hours a day. As a result, health care systems in Gaza are on the verge of collapse.
Hospitals rely on emergency generators twenty hours a day. Sixteen primary care units and three major hospitals have been shut down due to lack of electricity. The remaining hospitals are overcrowded, unable to sterilize equipment and store blood, and must rush to perform surgical procedures and births when power is available.
The head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, Dr. Mahmoud Daher, told the Guardian that there were also “dramatic decreases” in the numbers of people who were successful in seeking permits for healthcare outside Gaza. According to the Guardian’s report, “Figures are expected to show that there were fewer exit permits granted in 2017 than in any year since the WHO began monitoring applications,” with a 45% decrease documented in October, 2017.
Residents of Gaza rely on electricity from Israel and Egypt, which is paid for by the Palestinian Authority—unless the PA is in a dispute with Hamas, which has been the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip. As OCHA, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reported in February, 2018, such disputes have led to extensive power outages lasting days to months.
The electricity outages contribute to reduced and contaminated water supplies. The average family in Gaza receives running water for four to six hours, every three to five days. 96% of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drinking, leaving most families to travel hours to buy water at expensive rates. 108 million liters of sewage from neglected desalination plants are dumped in into the Mediterranean Sea every day. As Electronic Intifada reported, contaminated sewage has leaked into communities, infecting families and children.
In February, 2018, Reuters reported that donations from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would keep the hospitals open through late 2018. In the same month, US president Donald Trump cut UNRWA funding by more than half. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the UNRWA to be disbanded after the United States cut funding to the UNRWA, saying it was for “fictitious refugees,” as Al Jazeera reported. Israel continues to deny any sort of crisis in Gaza, even as Israeli diplomats presented a “Human Rehabilitation” plan for Gaza at a meeting of donors in Brussels in January, 2018.
Israel has maintained occupation of the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza strip) since 1967. According to a 2018 Emergency Appeal from the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, one million people in million depend on it for food assistance (p. ii), 72% of the Palestinian population in Gaza are registered refugees, and the unemployment rate is one of the highest worldwide at 47.2% (p. 2).
Rebecca Ratcliffe, “Gaza’s Health System Close to Collapse as Electricity Crisis Threatens Total Blackout,” The Guardian, January 3, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jan/03/gaza-health-system-collapse-electricity-crisis-threatens-total-blackout.
Ali Abunimah, “Gaza Hospitals Shut down as Deadly Siege Tightens,” Electronic Intifada, February 7, 2018, https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/gaza-hospitals-shut-down-deadly-siege-tightens.
Student Researcher: Izzy Snow (College of Marin)
Faculty Advisor: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)