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Gaza electricity crisis worse than aftermath of war

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The impact of the Gaza electricity crisis on people’s access to basic services is as bad as the aftermath of the 2014 war, Oxfam said today. Four months since the beginning of the avoidable electricity, fuel, healthcare and salary crisis, Gaza’s entire population is plunging deeper into another crisis and its impact on people’s access to basic services, such as water and sanitation, is worse than the impact of the devastating 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended three years ago this week.

Oxfam Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel Country Director, Chris Eijkemans, said the crisis must end now and relieve an already trapped population, now seriously threatened by risk of widespread disease, with few functioning services. “After the 2014 Gaza War, 50 per cent of the sewage treatment centers were no longer operating. Today, none are. In August 2014 900,000 people lacked proper water and sanitation facilitates, today that number is 2 million.  After the last war, 80 per cent of the population received four hours of electricity per day. Today many people in Gaza are living on as little as two hours per day,” said Mr Eijkemans.

Since after the bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant in 2006 by Israel, electricity supply was already unacceptably low, with households and businesses receiving as little as eight hours a day. This was exacerbated by the land, sea and air blockade now in its 11th year. The recent escalation was caused by Israel’s decision to cut electricity supplies to Gaza by 40 per cent, at the request of the Palestinian National Authority (PA). This has seen supply drop to as little as two hours per day.

There are no Oxfam humanitarian or development projects in Gaza across the water and sanitation, agriculture or economic development sectors that have not been impacted by lack of available power.

Desalinisation plant rehabilitation projects have ground to a halt. Fishermen cannot store their catch, farmers cannot irrigate their crops and Information Communication Technology projects are missing deadlines and opportunities, and are forced to make staff cuts. The economic, development and humanitarian costs are staggering.

“Even without rockets and bombs, Palestinians in Gaza are experiencing a humanitarian emergency which is all too familiar to them. It is shameful this crisis has been allowed to escalate to this extent and further squeeze an already suffocating two million people living under an illegal blockade,” said Eijkemans.

The Gaza electricity crisis is an illegal, punitive, measure against an entire population and must end immediately. The Palestinian Authority, the de-facto authorities in Gaza, and Israel all share responsibility for the well being of Palestinians living in Gaza and must not use them as a bargaining chip in this political dispute. All must act to urgently resume fuel and electricity supply to Gaza.

Mr Eijkemans added: “Palestinians in Gaza are already enduring huge hardship and abuse of their rights that the blockade has entrenched. They must not be forced to suffer further and be used as a bargaining chip of Palestinian political parties.”

Oxfam has today launched a social media campaign in partnership with Palestinian digital agencies to show solidarity with people in Gaza, urging that the power be turned back on.