Gaza’s health system close to collapse as electricity crisis threatens total blackout

World Health Organization warns hospitals could be plunged into darkness by end of February without fresh funding to keep emergency generators running

Babies born prematurely are crammed into an incubator at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, where experts say ‘dangerous overcrowding’ has become commonplaceBabies born prematurely are crammed into an incubator at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, where experts say ‘dangerous overcrowding’ has become commonplace. (Sarah Helm for the Observer)

Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian, 3 Jan 2018

Hospitals in Gaza will face an almost total power blackout by the end of February unless funding is secured to keep emergency generators running, the World Health Organization has warned.

An ongoing electricity crisis in Gaza has left hospitals reliant on emergency generators for up to 20 hours a day, while medical staff have been forced to cut back on basic services such as equipment sterilisation and diagnostics. About 500,000 litres of fuel are required each month to sustain critical care in Gaza, but funding will only cover hospitals’ needs until the end of February.

Dr Mahmoud Daher, head of the WHO’s Gaza sub-office, said the health system is on “the edge of collapse”. Without urgent fundraising, hospitals will face a disastrous situation, he said. “There are at least 200 babies and people in intensive care units. It would be a really fatal situation for them. There are dozens of people who are going to surgical operations that would be affected.”

Fears over the humanitarian situation intensified following a series of tweets by Donald Trump on Tuesday, in which he threatened to cut funding for the Palestinian Authority unless it recommences peace talks. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, earlier said the US would cut funds to UNRWA, the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees, unless the authority went back to the negotiating table.

Dr Andy Ferguson, director of programmes for Medical Aid for Palestinians (Map), an organisation that works with hospitals and other healthcare providers across Gaza and the West Bank, said electricity outages in Gaza, combined with medical shortages and severe restrictions on freedom of movement, were creating a medical emergency.

Difficulties with sterilising equipment have caused a rise in hospital infections, he added, while power fluctuations have damaged sensitive medical equipment.

“Worsening maternal malnutrition and increasing rates of premature and low-birthweight babies have led to instances of dangerous overcrowding in the neonatal intensive care unit in al-Shifa hosptial,” said Ferguson.

Palestinian children do their homework during a power cut in Gaza CityPalestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power cut in Gaza City. (Mahmud Hams, AFP Getty Images)

As a result, explained Ferguson, incubators designed to accommodate one baby were often occupied by several. “Medical staff are having to look after as many as seven critically ill babies each at a time, compared to the UK standard of 1:1 or 1:2 care. Overcrowding of this type makes adequate monitoring and infection control impossible.”

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Gaza Lights: Electrical Power for People Under Siege

The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA)

Many mothers told us the same story. Their children are so scared of the dark they won’t even get up at night to use the bathroom. One mother brings home rubbing alcohol from the clinic where she works to make a small fire so her children can have light to do their schoolwork.” –Amal Abu Moailqe, MECA Gaza Staff, Mechatronics Engineer

“Gaza Lights” provides households in the Gaza Strip with electrical power by providing a rechargeable system that generates electricity for approximately 12 hours and includes three lights, a fan, and a mobile phone charger.

The Electricity Crisis in Gaza, Palestine

The Gaza Strip has been deprived of adequate electrical power for most of the last ten years. In the beginning of 2017, most residents were getting five to eight hours of electricity per day. As summer approached, that declined to just one to three hours. This effected almost every aspect of daily life: storing perishable food and medicines, performing basic household and care-taking tasks; studying and work; phone and internet communication. Household fires have occurred from the use of candles and cooking with wood fires.

The Gaza Lights Project

Madison’s Sister Cities

Today we’re talking about Madison’s Sister Cities. Host Bert Zipperer speaks with Madison businessman, activist, and former City Council member Ricardo Gonzalez. You might know him as the owner of the much-beloved The Cardinal Bar, or from his work with the Madison-Camaguey Sister City Association. Later in the hour [at 33:50], we also speak with Barb Olson of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Last Month for Gaza Lights!

Our campaign to provide 50 “Gaza Lights” systems to families in Rafah is into its last month. We have almost raised the $4700 cost of the project. Thanks to those who have given so far. Details on the campaign here:

If you are looking for a good Halloween decoration, we are offering special Halloween-themed “Spooky Luci” Lights for sale again this year. (Luci Lights are a bright solar-powered light that in the past we have helped the Rebuilding Alliance send to Gaza children.) We have about 20 of the Halloween version left and all proceeds from any that we sell before Halloween this year will go to the Gaza Lights campaign.

“Spooky Luci” lights (3 styles)

The prices are $15 for one, $25 for two or $35 for three. Right now all three patterns are available, but that may not last, so if you are interested you need to hurry!

If you would like to purchase any of these lights, please send an e-mail to Kathy Walsh, madderhorn17 at, or call her at 608-278-0483. She can arrange for pickup or delivery in the Madison area.

As always, thanks for your support!

Halfway There: Help us Send “Gaza Lights” to Rafah!


A big thanks to those who have helped us get past the halfway point in our campaign to supply rechargeable household “Gaza Lights” to poor families in Rafah.

If you haven’t contributed, we can really use your help to meet our goal.

The electricity crisis in Gaza has reached unprecedented and unbearable heights, with power now reduced to 2-4 hours per day.

While only an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade can provide a lasting solution, in the meantime the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is 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” are 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 to raise funds supply 50 of these systems; we are just over half way to our goal of $4700. We need to raise the rest by mid-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.

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

    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 on line, 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 Unlocked Stories: Ismael Ramlawi


Ismael Ramlawi, 31 — American Friends Service Committee

"They have power cuts four or five times every day, which means we lose at least 1 hour of production."

At our factory, we produce plastic pipes for use in agricultural irrigation and construction using recycled plastic. Production depends on a regular supply of electricity. It takes two hours for the machines we use to heat up to the temperature needed to start production. Once they are heated, we can use them for at least 24 hours nonstop if we have power. But in the current situation, we only have eight hours of electricity at most each day, meaning we can’t produce our product for more than six hours per day.

And the power supply is also uneven. Although we are supposed to have eight hours of power each day, the power often goes off for 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours during that period. When the power goes off, we lose some of the product we are producing, and it takes 15 minutes to switch to a generator and reheat the equipment so we can restart production.

They have power cuts four or five times every day, which means we lose at least one hour of production due to power cuts. We can therefore only produce goods for three or four hours every day because there is no regular electrical supply.

Businesses can’t function without reliable electricity, increasing unemployment & destabilizing the economy.

Donate to the MRSCP’s Gaza Lights for Rafah Campaign

Help unlock Gaza: Contact Congress today, and urge them to take action to end the blockade.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the Quaker belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

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Gaza Unlocked Stories: Firas Ramlawi

  Education Electricity

Firas Ramlawi, 38 — American Friends Service Committee

"Classrooms are crowded, class times are shortened, and schools don’t have resources."

Take action today: Restore power to Gaza

On education
Before 2000, 90 percent of schools in Gaza ran on single shifts. Now nearly all schools run on double shifts, and a few schools have run on triple shifts during emergency situations. The morning shift runs from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., and the afternoon shift runs from 12 p.m. to 4:30 pm. The shifts are shorter during the winter when there is less daylight. This is because of the lack of electricity. You can’t go to school in the dark.

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