GAZA, April 22, 2017 (WAFA) – Shutdown of Gaza's power plant as a result of lack of fuel jeopardizes the delivery of basic services to Gaza’s two million people, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OHCA) said on Friday.
Gaza’s residents were getting 12 hours of electricity per day before Gaza’s sole power plant, which was anyhow operating at half its capacity, came to a total halt on April 17 after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds.
The power supply to Gaza was further exacerbated when electricity supply from Egypt, which accounts for 15 per cent of Gaza's supply, also came to a halt on April 20 due to technical malfunctioning that is yet to be repaired.
Gaza is currently supplied only with electricity purchased from Israel (some 55 per cent of the previous supply), resulting in electricity blackouts of 20 hours per day, up from 12 hours previously, further undermining the delivery of basic services.
OCHA expressed concern regarding the impact of the power shortage on the delivery of health services, particularly if generators used as backup suppliers of power stop operating in a week due to lack of fuel or funds.
If funding for fuel is not secured immediately, Gaza's 14 public hospitals will be forced to partially or completely close essential services, putting thousands of patient lives at risk, according to the World Health Organization. The situation will be immediately life-threatening for 113 new borns in neonatal intensive care units, 100 patients in intensive care and 658 patients requiring bi-weekly hemodialysis, including 23 children, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Meanwhile, to cope with the current situation, hospitals have adopted a range of measures to reduce fuel consumption, such as halting sterilization and laundry services during blackout hours and shutting down some operation theaters.
The electricity shortages have also impacted the delivery of water and sanitation services, which rely to a large extent on backup generators as well. The frequency of water supply to households has been reduced, while those living in buildings lacking generators to pump the water to the upper floors are largely unserved.
As of today, desalination plants operated by the official water administration, which produce most of the drinking water consumed in Gaza, began operating at a third of their capacity. Additionally, wastewater treatment was largely halted, resulting in the discharge of some 110 million liters of raw sewage, which was previously treated to some extent, into the sea.
The shutdown of the power plant has occurred in the context of an ongoing dispute between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah on issues related to a tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers.