Days of Palestine – Gaza
On Monday night, the authorities in the besieged Gaza Strip announced a 48-hour curfew after confirmed four coronavirus cases were detected among the population outside quarantine centers.
The head of the government’s media office, Salama Ma’rouf, said that four coronavirus cases among a single family were confirmed outside quarantine areas.
According to Ma’rouf, movement, gatherings, and other activities will be prohibited for 48 hours, with closures including government and private institutions, schools, universities, mosques, clubs, and wedding halls in all Gaza Strip provinces.
He called on citizens not to leave their homes during the mentioned period and until further notice to preserve their health and the safety of the society.
Ma’rouf said that the four new coronavirus infections are from al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central area of the Gaza Strip and asked the residents of the area who were in close contact with the infected cases to isolate themselves and communicate with the Ministry of Health.
In Gaza, food security, water, sanitation services, healthcare and education are all threatened by daily interruptions of electricity.
Amidst the many hardships Palestinians endure, blackouts are among the most pervasive, affecting virtually every aspect of daily life.
The Gaza Strip under brutal siege since 2007. Over 60 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, expelled from their homes in other parts of Palestine in 1948.
The worst of fates awaits two million people live in Gaza, as the deadly and fast-spreading virus found its way from all directions through the hermetic siege, which engulfs this minuscule, but the densely populated region.
Gaza, which is enduring its 13th year of Israeli siege and is still reeling under the massive destruction of several Israeli wars, has already been declared “uninhabitable” by the United Nations.
However, the misery of Gaza never ceases to unfold. Not a single UN report on Gaza’s ailing medical facilities or preparedness for at least the last ten years has used any positive or even hopeful language.
Last March, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Mr. Jamie McGoldrick, bemoaned Gaza’s “chronic power outages, gaps in critical services, including mental health and psychosocial support, and shortages of essential medicines and supplies.”
What is the impact of the chronic electricity shortage?
Here are just a few of the many consequences:
Health: Those residents and businesses that can afford them rely on backup generators when the power shuts down. However, generators are expensive—not to mention polluting, noisy and dangerous when not functioning correctly. Thus, many residents rely on flashlights with rechargeable batteries (themselves dependent on electricity) or candles. According to the al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, 32 Gaza residents (including 25 children) died between 2010 and 2018 due to fires causes by candles and malfunctioning generators; 36 others (including 20 children) were wounded.
Likewise, hospitals can’t function properly without consistent electricity. Every time the flow of electricity from the grid stops and generators must be activated, “mishaps” are likely that interfere with the activity of the wards, laboratories and equipment—many of which are lifesaving.Patients in need of dialysis, which requires an uninterrupted electrical supply, are at particular risk.
Agriculture: The agricultural industry accounts for 23 percent of the Gaza workforce as well as a good portion of its food supply. However, with the long, hot summers, crops require frequent irrigation, which is heavily dependent on the availability of electricity to pump groundwater. Once harvested, much of the produce is easily perishable without refrigeration.
Sewage treatment:Gaza’s sewage treatment facilities cannot operate fully due to lack of consistent electricity, contaminating water supplies and polluting the sea—thus contributing to disease.
Education: Students whose families can’t afford generators struggle to do their homework when electricity and Wi-Fi come only during the middle of the night or not at all. And teachers can’t use technologies like LED projectors that make learning interesting and less mundane.
“Simply living”: “When we don't have power, life is on hold,” writes one Gazan. “We struggle with candles, flashlights and, if we can afford them, unreliable generators. We wait for the sound of an electric water pump to tell us we're on the clock. I turn on all the light switches before I go to sleep to ensure that I don't miss the electricity. When I hear the water pump and see the lights go on, I jump out of bed. Life becomes a race as we use every last minute to do laundry, finish urgent work tasks, enjoy cold drinking water. Then the lights go out again.
“No electricity means trying to sleep in 95-degree weather without fans or air conditioning, but with the constant humming of generators. It means showering with only a trickle of water, scrambling to keep phones and laptops charged and never buying more than a day's worth of meat or milk. It means always taking the stairs to avoid the risk of getting stuck in an elevator. It means planning your outings around blackouts and checking the electricity schedule for a friend's neighborhood before visiting.”