The persistent electricity crisis in the Palestinian-besieged Gaza Strip, which has endured for the past 18 years, is taking a severe toll on the mental health of its residents. A recent study conducted in the region sheds light on the detrimental effects of prolonged power shortages, revealing elevated levels of anxiety and depression among those who experience constant electricity deprivation. As access to reliable sources of energy remains scarce, the well-being of the people of Gaza continues to be adversely affected.
Researchers conducting the study surveyed approximately 350 families living in the coastal enclave, with 81 of them enduring intermittent electricity supply. The results were alarming, with 93 percent of participants reporting moderate to severe anxiety, in stark contrast to the mere six percent found in the general population of the West Bank. Similarly, 44 percent of these families reported moderate to severe depression, as opposed to the 5.6 percent in the general population.
“Electricity issues, especially when combined with other stress factors associated with living in Gaza, lead to serious mental health concerns,” explained Raya al-Dadah, a co-author of the study from the University of Birmingham. She emphasized the urgent need for attention to be given to developing sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy supplies for both short- and long-term health and community development.
Impact on Daily Life
The intermittent access to electricity in Gaza has profound consequences on the daily lives of its residents. Mazen Abu Qamar, a Gaza-based psychologist and co-author of the study, highlighted that it disrupts social and community networks and reduces people’s opportunities to study or access essential healthcare services. Reliable, non-polluting, and affordable energy is essential for supporting employment, promoting economic development, and addressing poverty in the region.
The electricity crisis in Gaza dates back to 2006 when the Israeli occupation forces bombed the sole power station capable of generating electricity. Subsequently, all efforts to resolve the electricity crisis went unheeded, leaving the residents of Gaza to suffer through regular power outages.
Today, the Gaza Strip, home to over 2.3 million people, requires approximately 500 megawatts of electricity daily. However, it only receives 120 megawatts from the Israeli side, while its sole power station generates a mere 60 megawatts, according to officials in the territory. As a result, residents have access to electricity for only up to eight hours a day, with the summer and winter months experiencing power cut-offs that can last up to 12 hours daily.
Many residents of the Gaza Strip have been forced to turn to private generators established by investment companies, despite the exorbitant costs, which can be more than eight times the regular price. These generators serve as a lifeline for families seeking to power their homes and maintain some semblance of normalcy in their daily lives.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned that this ongoing energy crisis is pushing Gaza to the brink of disaster, with dire implications for health, water, and sanitation.
The electricity crisis in Gaza has not only deprived its residents of a basic necessity but has also taken a heavy toll on their mental health. The recent study underscores the urgent need for a sustainable and equitable solution to this crisis, one that not only addresses the immediate energy needs of the population but also fosters long-term health, economic development, and overall well-being in the beleaguered coastal enclave. Gaza’s residents deserve access to reliable, affordable, and non-polluting energy sources that can help alleviate their suffering and contribute to a brighter future.