Gaza Unlocked: Electricity

Gaza Unlocked Issues: Electricity — American Friends Service Committee

Gaza’s power system is at risk of collapse. In 2006, the Israeli military bombed Gaza’s only power plant, destroying its six transformers. Under the blockade, the power plant can’t import parts to replace damaged components. Temporary fixes have allowed the plant to function at a minimal level, but those solutions were never made to last.

Other factors have exacerbated the power crisis, including a halt in smuggled fuel from Egypt in 2013, the destruction of fuel storage tanks and other structures at the plant by Israeli airstrikes in 2014, and the destruction of infrastructure and distribution networks throughout Gaza. Since April 2017, the Gaza power plant has been offline due to limited fuel imports, further limiting electricity in Gaza.

While Gaza’s electrical grid is linked with the Israeli system, Israel limits how much power it sells to Gaza, and existing power lines can only supply a fraction of Gaza’s total needs.

Today, less than one-third of Gaza’s electricity demand is being met. Rolling blackouts leave Palestinians in Gaza with less than four hours of electricity per day—affecting the health and well-being of residents; jeopardizing critical services, such as hospitals, schools, and water sanitation; and making it impossible for businesses to function.

Ending the blockade is crucial to address the power crisis, but it will not improve the situation immediately. Even if new parts could be imported and additional infrastructure could be built, it would take up to five years for the system to reach a point where current needs could be met.

People in Gaza have no more than 4 hours of electricity per day.

Why Gaza can't count on electricity

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Quick Facts

  • The Gaza power plant operates at less than one-third of its capacity and has regularly had to shut down, due to fuel shortages, caused by fuel costs and Israeli limitations on importing fuel.

  • Because of the limited power supply, over 70 percent of Gaza households have access to piped water for only six to eight hours once every two to four days.

  • Since 2010, at least 29 people—24 of them children—have died in Gaza from fires or suffocation directly linked to power outages.

  • Water is piped to over 70 percent of Gaza households only once every two to four days for four to six hours at a time. That’s because the insufficient power supply can’t provide uninterrupted access to water. And if homes don’t have power during those periods to operate household pumps used to fill cisterns, then they will receive no water.

  • Hospitals provide only limited services because they rely on generators, which produce insufficient electrical supplies that can damage sensitive medical equipment.

  • Schools often run without electricity, leaving students in the dark and making many educational activities impossible.

    Continue reading

Help Us Respond to Gaza’s Electricity Crisis


 
Gaza Lights for Rafah Campaign

The electricity crisis in Gaza has reached unprecedented heights, with power now reduced to 2 to 4 hours per day (see Desperate Palestinians Try to Beat Heat and Israeli Blockade Bringing Gaza to Collapse). It is causing terrible suffering for ordinary people there.

Without electricity sewage goes untreated into the sea. Water doesn’t get pumped to high rise apartments or rural areas. Everything has to be done in the dark — cooking, eating, caring for babies and those who are sick or old. Food rots in refrigerators. No fans cool the stifling Gaza summer heat. Children can’t read, and students can’t study. Candles have caused death and injury in tragic house fires. Hospital and home health equipment can’t function.

While only an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade can provide a lasting solution, in the meantime you can help us ameliorate the suffering of poor families in Rafah.

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is once again partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide families in Rafah with a “Gaza Lights” unit — a rechargeable household system created by a team of volunteer Gaza engineers that takes advantage of the short hours of electrical service to charge a battery, which can then power lights, fans and phones for twelve hours.

These “Gaza Lights” systems will be produced quickly in Gaza and distributed to needy families by MECA and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.


Amal and the Sketch Engineering Team assemble Gaza Lights systems

MRSCP has committed funds to buy 10 of these systems. We need to raise $3,640 to purchase & install 40 more by the end of November. Please help us reach this goal! Your contribution of just $11 will give one family in Rafah 3 lights for their home. $20 buys them a fan; $31 a rechargeable battery; $91 a complete system.

$2,150 of $4,700 46%

To contribute to this campaign, send a check made out to “MRSCP” and marked “Gaza Lights” to

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison WI 53705

You can also contribute online at MECA’s site Gaza Lights for Rafah.

Your contribution to this campaign is tax-deductible; if you contribute online, you will receive a receipt from MECA. If you send a check to MRSCP, we will provide you a receipt at the end of the year.

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Gaza Lights Campaign

Gaza Lights Campaign

The electricity shortage impacts every family in Gaza. Please support the Gaza Lights Campaign!


 
It’s been 10 years of living under siege in Gaza. Three years after the most brutal Israeli assault. And things keep getting worse.

    Gaza now gets only about 2 hours of electricity each day.

Without electricity sewage goes untreated into the sea. Water doesn’t get pumped to high rise apartments or rural areas.

Everything has to be done in the dark — cooking, eating, caring for babies and those who are sick or old. Food rots in refrigerators. No fans cool the stifling Gaza summer. Children can’t read, and students can’t study. Candles have caused death and injury in tragic house fires. Hospital and home health equipment can’t function.

Recently a team of volunteer Gaza engineers designed a rechargeable, battery-operated system that can power lights, fans, and phones for twelve hours. While the only solution to this crisis is to end the Israeli/Egyptian blockade of Gaza and restore electrical power, in the meantime you can help people in Gaza survive.

The “Gaza Lights” systems will be produced quickly in Gaza and distributed to needy families by the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.

    Your contribution of just $11 will give one family in Gaza 3 lights for their home. $20 buys them a fan, $31 a rechargeable battery, and $91 a complete Gaza Light system.

To make a contribution dedicated to Rafah, send a check to “MRSCP” with the note “Gaza Lights” to

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison WI 53705

You can also contribute online at the Middle East Children’s Alliance:


What is it like to live without electricity in Gaza in the summer?

“I talked to my family in Gaza earlier this week and asked them: ‘How do you sleep at night when you don’t have electricity?’ The temperature at night there doesn’t go below 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity is high. My 12-year-old sister answered: ‘We don’t.’

“She explained that even if they try to sleep, open all the windows, drink a lot of water – still, they can’t breathe. If they lie down, they spend hours sweating profusely while listening to the Israeli drones’ intimidating noise outside, with nowhere to go. They prefer to stay awake at night until they can’t resist their eyes closing. Even then, they’re troubled by insomnia, and nightmares. They wake up to find themselves drowned in sweat.

“By the morning, the flaming sun limits their options. One option is to spend the day in the Capital Mall, the only mall in Gaza equipped with internet, air conditioners, private electrical generators and a place to sit down. Or they could go and visit a relative who has a big enough battery to operate a small fan while they speak. They can no longer go and sit by the sea, when the risk of catching diseases from the contaminated water is so high, though others have stopped really caring about getting sick or not. As a friend of mine told me: ‘The sea is 99% polluted, we swim in the 1% that’s left.’

“Their electricity, however, suddenly comes back on for two to three random hours at most each day, and that’s the only time you can turn on the pumps to store a little bit of undrinkable water in the tanks that will run out as soon as you take a shower. It becomes a kind of rush hour, when everyone is desperately running around, trying to cool some purchased mineral water in the freezer, recharge cellphone batteries and radios and flashlights, and sit behind a computer screen to read the news, whose headlines are repetitive and hollow.

“As soon as the electricity goes out, the people are back to the streets, sitting in the shade on the pavements. …”

— Excerpted from “My Family in Gaza Tells Me: We Can’t Breathe”, Muhammad Shehada, Haaretz, July 16, 2017


More on Gaza
Israel implements illegal cuts to Gaza’s power supply, Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada
Gaza’s electricity crisis, Al Jazeera
Gaza: Looming humanitarian catastrophe highlights need to lift Israel’s 10-year illegal blockade, Amnesty International

Gaza Unlocked

American Friends Service Committee
Gaza Unlocked
What is Gaza Unlocked?

For over a decade, two million Palestinians in Gaza have lived under a brutal military blockade imposed by Israel.

Media stories about Gaza primarily focus on violence and politics, while stories of how the blockade impacts everyday life remain largely untold.

Gaza Unlocked gives you access to first-hand accounts from Palestinians living in Gaza, information about the blockade, and opportunities to make a difference. Learn more.

Raise awareness. Bring Gaza to your Farmer’s Market

Strawberry farmers in Gaza
Join our summer engagement effort to raise awareness about the Gaza blockade.


Water and Sanitation
Osama Khalili, 46
Head of the Nutrition Department,
Palestinian Ministry of Health

 


Health care
Movement
Rana Joudeh, 42
Employee, NGO

 


Health care
Water and Sanitation
Said Al-Yacoubi
Medical student

 


Employment
Shelter
Raeda Sukkar, 28
Youth club project coordinator

 


Shelter
Shareef Hamad, 34
Project coordinator, NGO

 


Education
Movement
Ahmed Hamza
Architect and student

 


Electricity
Movement
Fidaa Zaanin, 27
College graduate

 


Movement
Amal Zeiniyeh, 32
Mother of four children

 


Movement
Shelter
Salah Abu Fayyad, 28
College graduate
Continue reading

Gaza: Abandoned in the Middle of Nowhere

, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, June 28, 2016

During a brief pause to hostilities in July 2014, families returned to eastern Gaza, which saw some of the heaviest bombings. Photo Credit: Oxfam / Flickr

Palestinians in Gaza are largely forgotten. They are an invisible people inhabiting a world without rights and possibilities. Over Israel’s near 50-year occupation, Gaza and the West Bank were reduced from a lower middle-income economy to a dysfunctional economy disproportionately dependent on foreign assistance. Gaza is under immense pressure from a continued blockade, now in its tenth year. Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people through Rafah, “which has remained largely closed… since October 2014, including for humanitarian assistance”[1] increased internal discord and hindered intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

There are stunningly high levels of unemployment and poverty. According to the World Bank, unemployment currently stands at 43 percent and in excess of 60 percent for Gazan youth. Yet, while Gaza’s economic demise is well documented, the blockade’s societal impact is often neglected. The blockade created a series of long-term, chronic conditions in Palestinian society,[2] including the destruction of civilian space, changes to social structure and health status, widespread trauma, a dramatic change in popular attitudes, and finally, a widening generational divide.

As United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Spokesman Chris Gunness notes: “The juxtaposition of hopelessness and despair, contrasted with the transformational potential of Gazan society, has never been so palpable.”[3]According to the World Bank, the Israeli blockade alone—which has severed almost all of the territory’s ties to the outside world, virtually terminating Gaza’s critically needed export trade—decreased Gaza’s GDP by at least 50 percent since 2007.[4] Egypt’s near total termination of Gaza’s tunnel trade—a vital, albeit underground economic lifeline—dealt an additional and extremely damaging blow. On top of this, the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, or Operation Protective Edge (OPE), worsened an already bleak situation by reducing Gaza’s economy by an additional $460 million.

This set in motion what one local analyst called a “dynamic of disintegration” that produced a range of unprecedented socioeconomic changes. Combined with the ruinous impact of the blockade, OPE was resulted in extensive damage to or destruction of homes, schools, health facilities, factories, businesses, sewage and water treatment infrastructure, and agriculture — effectively resulting in the destruction of civilian space. At least 100,000 people found themselves homeless, resulting in an estimated 75,000 being displaced, 11,200 being injured, at least 1,000 becoming permanently disabled, and 1,500 children becoming orphaned.[5]

Gaza’s society was radically leveled, particularly with the virtual destruction of its middle class and the emergence of an unprecedentedly new class of “poor.” Perhaps emblematic of the damage done to society, particularly since the imposition of the blockade, is Gaza’s rising infant mortality rate (IMR). IMR not only measures the health status of children, but also of the whole population. For the first time in more than 50 years, the IMR in Gaza increased from 20.2 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 22.4 in 2013. Neonatal mortality rates, or the number of children who die within four weeks of birth, experienced a dramatic increase from 12.0 in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013, an uptick of nearly 70 percent. In Gaza, there is also a documented rise in domestic violence and child labor, as well as considerable anecdotal evidence for an increase in prostitution. No doubt the blockade, coupled with the last three wars in Gaza, is a contributing factor.

According to local health officials, 80 percent of adults in Gaza suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. During OPE, all sectors of the Strip were subject to or threatened with some kind of attack. According to Yale Professor Brian Barber, “OPE was uniquely crippling because no one was free of risk, and no place was safe to find refuge. It was, in a sense, universally and inescapably terrorizing.”[6] Every child over the age of six has seen three wars, and at least 400,000 children are in need of immediate psychological intervention, according to the UN. As a result, OPE has created a profound sense of collective dread and desperation that has less to do with the war than the inhuman conditions left unchanged since the war. People have never felt less safe and secure or more devoid of hope.

The people of Gaza once maintained more nuanced views of Israel, but now see little possibility for peace. There appears to be a greater generational divide between the “older” Oslo generation (and earlier cohorts), who had some insight into Israel and the world beyond, and those born since Oslo, who have little insight, if any. Gaza’s population is very young, with nearly half of the population being 14 years of age and younger. This is extremely dangerous, especially in the absence of effective leadership and in an environment that offers so little. Furthermore, the generational divide appears to be shifting. Young people, some reportedly as young as 10-12 years, are assuming responsibilities reserved for individuals far older. Children are forced out of school to work and help support their families; in some cases, they even head households.[7] Even before OPE, almost 30 percent of all young people aged 16-17 were out of school in Gaza and the West Bank. People, especially the young, are acutely aware of what they are being denied. How long can they be expected to accept their own deprivation?

Reconstruction is so painfully slow that no one in Gaza, save international organizations, discusses it anymore. By November 2015, only 170 homes out of 18,000-19,000 destroyed or severely damaged were rebuilt.[8] By April 2016, according to the UN, nearly 3,000 homes were rebuilt or made livable. Not surprisingly, “an estimated 1.3 million people [out of a total population of 1.8 million] are in need of humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip in 2016.”[9] These people have a range of skills, but are deliberately denied the right to work by Israel, the United States. and the European Union. They are instead forced into a debilitating dependency on foreign aid. Foreign donors are almost non-existent in the context of reconstruction, because the majority of promised monies—approximately 65 percent–has yet to materialize.[10] Even if donations were waiting to be funneled in, longstanding Israeli restrictions obstruct the importation of needed construction materials, despite an easing of certain restrictions in recent months.

Because of security concerns, Israel prohibits the entry of a range of items into Gaza, , including wooden boards thicker than 1cm.[11] Thus, many Gazans must salvage building materials, yet another example of the normalization of violence and illegality, which the international community continues to accept. An official with the Israeli human rights organization, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, captured Gaza’s situation, noting: “In the rest of the world we try to bring people up to the humanitarian standard. Gaza is the only place where we’re trying to push them down—to keep them at the lowest possible indicators.”[12] The assistance provided by international donors is not meant to raise people out of poverty, but to maintain their survival within it. It is not meant to alter the structures of unemployment and dependency, but to sustain and reinforce them. It is not meant to alleviate the causes of suffering but, simply, to manage them.

What will happen when Palestinian despair defines Palestinian identity?[13] Will Israel respond, as it long has, by building more barriers and inflicting more misery? Will the international community respond by providing more sacks of flour and bags of rice? Palestinians working in major media outlets were recently instructed by their home offices not to cover Gaza in depth. “Barring a major event” they were told, there were to be “no human interest stories, no day-to-day coverage, and no focus on suffering.” This is, the media staff are told, in order “to diminish any linkage with the West Bank and any understanding of Gaza and what has happened to it. Gaza is abandoned in the middle of nowhere.”[14] As long as occupation and colonization continue, there can be no resolution and no conclusion. What Gaza needs, what all Palestinians and Israelis need, is for the occupation to end and for liberation to begin.



Sara Roy (Ed.D. Harvard University) is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies specializing in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dr. Roy is also co-chair of the Middle East Seminar, jointly sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and co-chair of the Middle East Forum at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

Dr. Roy began her research in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in 1985 with a focus on the economic, social and political development of the Gaza Strip and on U.S. foreign assistance to the region. Since then she has written extensively on the Palestinian economy, particularly in Gaza, and on Gaza’s de-development, a concept she originated.

[1] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OPT, Gaza: Internally Displaced Persons, April 2016, p. 4.
[2] For a more detailed discussion of social impacts, see Sara Roy, “Afterword – The Wars on Gaza: A Reflection;” in The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development, Third Edition (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2016); and Sara Roy, UN Security Council Arria-Formula Presentation on Gaza, in Israel-Palestine Non-governmental Organization Working Group at the United Nations, Reflections One Year Later and Charting a New Course for Gaza—UN Security Council Arria-formula Meeting, United Nations, New York, July 20, 2015.
[3] “Interview: The UN in Gaza,” Middle East Policy, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, Spring 2016, p. 145.
[4] World Bank, Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (Washington, DC: World Bank, May 27, 2015), p. 6.
[5] See Roy, “Afterword – The Wars on Gaza: A Reflection,” pp. 398-399, 415-416; Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry Established Pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution S-21/1, Executive Summary, June 24, 2015, pp. 6-7; Human Rights Council, Report of the Detailed Findings of the Independent Commission of Inquiry Established Pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution S-21/1, June 24, 2015, p. 154; and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OPT, Gaza: Internally Displaced Persons, April 2016, p. A.
[6] Email exchange.
[7] Sami Abdul Shafi, “Economic Shift in EU Policy in Palestine: Capturing Lost Opportunity; Restoring Dignity,” Chatham House, September 2015, Draft.
[8] Security analyst, Jerusalem, November 2015.
[9] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs OPT, Gaza: Internally Displaced Persons, April 2016, pp. 1 & 10.
[10] As of September 2015.
[11] In October 2015 Israel reported that gravel would be removed from the dual use list, but 19 items remain, many of them critical for reconstruction.
[12] Cited in Lani Frerichs, “Belligerent Occupation and Humanitarianism in Gaza,” A.M. Thesis, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, April 25, 2010, p. 8.
[13] “Interview: The UN in Gaza,” Middle East Policy (Spring 2016).
[14] Telephone conversation, November 2015.