“The dream of light”: MAP’s team speak about this month’s increased electricity supply in Gaza

For more than two years, people in Gaza have been living with as few as four hours of electricity a day. From homes to hospitals, having such little mains electricity supply affected all aspects of daily life – from washing clothes to charging phones – and left vital infrastructure like hospitals running on backup generators for up to 20 hours every day.

This month, however, Gaza’s electricity supply increased to 18 hours per day after the provision of extra fuel for the Gaza Power Plant. This has marked a small improvement in the basic living conditions of people in Gaza, though the World Health Organization warns that hospitals are still running on generator power for part of the day, emergency fuel for which will run out in the first week of December, threatening the lives of over 1,500 patients reliant on electrical machines.

Here is what staff from Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s Gaza team have said about the recent increase in electricity supply and the difference this has made to their lives: 

Rasha

“It’s an incredible experience to have electricity on for all this time. Really for the last twelve years I forgot what it means to have more than four, six or maximum eight hours of electricity per day. 24 hours of electricity is a luxury for a Gaza resident. Every day when I’m back home from work, when I see that the street light is on, I feel happy but it’s also weird. I am always checking when it will go off again. We make jokes about switching the main source of electricity off at the house so that life gets back to normal. For me 12 years is a long and significant part of my life, I have been through different stages of education, including secondary school, university, work and masters studies. Now I feel free to shower at any time of the day because warm water is there, stay awake during the night to study as there is light, but I don’t think I will switch the stairs light on because I’m used to it and I can go up them blind.”

Wafa

Rasha, you have explained exactly what we are feeling currently. I am not worried any more about charging my mobile, I can turn on the TV for my kids anytime they ask without needing to be sorry or having to explain to my little boy why we don't have electricity and why he can’t watch a cartoons series whenever he wants. I can now sleep and not worry that darkness will scare my children during the night. I don’t have to worry about food in the refrigerator, using the washing machine or elevator. I left my apartment that I own on the 12th floor and rent another one in the first floor due to the electricity cuts.”

Shahd

You both have explained what we feel nowadays while the electricity is there for 24 hours unlike before when we had it for a maximum of four to eight hours. I can’t remember what it was like to have electricity for 24 hours, so now having electricity throughout the day I'm able to iron my clothes and my scarves whenever I want to wear them. I don’t have to change my plans of what to wear many times because of the electricity issue. I struggled a lot during my years of studying at school, college and during my Masters as I needed my laptop all the time. Before when I was having exams, I used to study by using my laptop, and once the battery was empty, I had to switch to my brother’s laptop or my father’s laptop. If they were all out of battery, then I would have to wait until the electricity is on to start studying again. Nowadays I have no problems with charging my laptop whenever I need to. Also, I can go out for a walk with my mother whenever we like because when we return back home the elevator will be working and we don't have to use the stairs to reach the sixth floor where we live.”

Aliya

“Since a month our daily routines changed dramatically and positively because of the increase in electricity. Nowadays, I don’t have to schedule my time at home based on when the power is on to carry out tasks like putting the washing machine on. The elevator is on most of the time in our apartment block, so my husband, who has a bad knee, does not worry about having to take the stairs. We don’t have to worry if there is no fuel to operate the spare generator in our building which provided us with only four hours of electricity per day at a very expensive price, something which is not affordable for the majority of Gaza’s people. In Gaza we are no longer obliged to sleep early because of the dark and the inability to watch TV.  Actually, it is a very nice feeling when you can take your shower any time and charge your mobile any time.

On 13 November, when there were lots of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza during the night, it was good to have electricity, TV and internet access so we could follow the news. Believe me, electricity can be a good friend at frightening times.”

Amal

“Most of my life I did not experience electricity cuts, the normal thing in my life was to have electricity 24 hours a day, but since I returned to Gaza in 2007 this became a dream. For eleven years, we have been used to four to six hours of electricity a day, during this short period I scheduled everything to be completed like my boys’ studying, washing clothes, cooking, bathing, reading etc. I remember that I read books by candle light, which I don’t like. It was very difficult to manage all these things. Nowadays, I feel that I am in a dream now we have electricity almost all day, which means, whenever you want to wash, cook, or watch TV you can do it without any calculations. Still, we have this question in our minds, when will the electricity cut?”

Nawraz

“Yes, I agree. I am not pessimistic, but the ghost of the return to the darkness still haunts me so our joy is incomplete. My daughter is at secondary school this year, and she can’t believe that she stopped setting her alarm at unusual hours, 2:00 or 3:00 AM, in order to wake up to study or complete her homework. She feels that she’s the luckiest, more than her brothers who passed the secondary school exams during a very difficult situation with many power cuts and they were obliged to use all the possible mitigation tools, however these tools weren’t healthy or safe and were very costly. All our dreams are now complete, the dream of light.

During the dark days children everywhere would say “haaaaaayyyyyyyy!” loudly when the electricity returned after long hours of being cut. “

Haitham

This time last year I travelled to Geneva to speak at the UN with MAP. As part of this, I highlighted the problems caused by the lack of electricity and how this affected people in Gaza. Alhamdullah, the situation has changed to be better.

My experience is like Rasha’s and Wafa’s. Also, in the past I spent a lot of my time in cafés, especially on Saturdays. Now I can spend all my time on Saturdays in my home and can watch the football games from the premier and Spanish league. Now I do not need to know the electricity schedule in my area. I can watch the matches and films without worry.”

Mohammed

“These conversations burn the back of my mind and bring me back to the days of my internship training. Imagine an obstetrician who happened to be unlucky during a young lady’s caesarean delivery. She accidentally cut a major vessel and was also unfortunate enough that the electricity cut at the same time for 30 seconds. Surrounded by the weight of darkness and a warm liquid oozing out are the fingers of the poor surgeon trying to identify the source of bleeding, no gauze ready either or a cautery. Shouting. Sweating. Alarming. Now the light is here again but too late. I mean imagine the lady herself, her family and the new-born. That’s what electricity sometimes does; it saves the lives of our beloved ones.”

Ahmed

“I want to reinforce the thoughts of my colleagues, and I want to add my experience with my one-year-baby daughter. She doesn’t wake up at night any more scared of the darkness. We also can enjoy having warm water for her bottle and shower whenever she needs. But we are still scared of losing all of that at any time and keep asking when the electricity will cut off! I wish for a life for all Gaza’s people.”