MAP’s Gaza team: Power cuts affecting healthcare and all aspects of day-to-day life

This week Gaza has been ‘plunged into darkness’ by a deepening electricity crisis. Gaza’s only power plant ceased operating once again on Wednesday due to lack of fuel, leaving almost two million people reliant on just 70 MW of power now provided by Israel – well short of the 450 MW needed.

This crisis is particularly troubling for patients and the healthcare professionals who serve them. Hospitals now rely almost constantly on power from ageing generators to keep vital life-support facilities such as adult and neonatal intensive care units running. Surgical operations have been cancelled, sensitive equipment damaged, and sterilisation and cleaning services drastically reduced, putting patient lives and welfare at risk.

In 2012, the UN predicted that Gaza could be "unlivable" by 2020. This week they revised this estimate, saying that the humanitarian situation has "deteriorated further and faster than anticipated".

One experienced humanitarian surgeon who has witnessed this first-hand, a regular member of surgical missions to Gaza over the past 10 years, this week described to MAP “the increasingly unbearable working conditions within hospital theatres, and the worrying increase in post-operative infections as a result of the heat, humidity and limited sterilisation services”.

Similarly, MAP trustee and UK-based neonatal life support specialist Dr Ezzedin Gouta, who recently returned from Gaza, told us what he had seen:

“Conditions in Gaza at this stage are very harsh, I could describe it as ghastly, from the long siege including the electricity cuts, lack of water supply, untreated sewage, closures of borders, lack of medicine and other health care supplies … I found people’s morale very low and they seemed frustrated, frightened from the unknown and hopeless!”

“A humanitarian crisis of a large scale is happening with the eyes of the world wide open and with complete indifference.”

A humanitarian crises of a large scale is happening with the eyes of the world wide open and with complete indifference.

Mahmoud Shalabi, Manager of MAP’s Emergency and Medical Training Programme, has described how these conditions are affecting daily life for him and our team in Gaza:

“As of the time of writing; the heat is reaching 36 Celsius degrees, and the humidity is over 50%. One would hope that the air conditioners, fans, and other cooling devices available would kill the heat and help Gazans enjoy their day. However, the reality is grim with only 3.5 to 4 hours of electricity per 24 hours, and some even reporting 2 hours per day only. You can never predict the hours when the electricity is coming back, and even if you are home when it does, there is no guarantee that you can finish all your chores relying on electricity that may be cut off any minute.

At night, the situation is worse. You cannot escape mosquitoes and the heat is still only a notch below 30 degrees. You can have nightmares because of the temperature, and little kids prefer sleeping on the floor now to escape the scorching heat. In addition, people living in apartment blocks suffer from stoppage of elevators most of the day, meaning that they are either stuck at home, or only go out and come back very quickly when the electricity is still on.

Recently, Gaza has also been struck with news that the only telecommunication company in Gaza, PALTEL, reported that their generators have suffered damage due to the fact that they are being used continuously. This caused the breakage of internet signal in many areas of Gaza, and there is speculation that this breakage might cover all Gaza Strip soon.

Now if you want to escape the heat, you would go to the big, beautiful, greenish-blue sea to have a swim. But you cannot! Due to the shortage in electricity; municipalities have been dumping raw sewage water into the sea contaminating a very large proportion of it. Driving along the sea road, you can now read signs that prohibit swimming and even fishing. Thinking of taking a shower? Gazans have no control of when the water is being pumped to houses because of the electricity problem. If you can take your daily shower in this heat, you are a lucky Gazan!

All of the above is just a portion of what Gazans have been suffering recently, but imagine the suffering of someone who has health complications, who needs to have regular treatment at hospitals that do not have enough power. Sometimes patients need to be transferred to outside of Gaza for treatment, but for more than half of them  their application for travel gets rejected or delayed. Their suffering is even worse.”

Ten years of blockade and closure and 50 years of occupation - and the absence of international action to end them - are the root cause of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. Please help us call on the UK Government to take action today.