Background: Infrastructure Crisis in Gaza 2017
During the 2014 Gaza War, the main power plant is Gaza was damaged severely. Since then, the infrastructure crisis has grown exponentially. Exacerbated by the difficulty in purchasing Diesel due to a financial conflict between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, Gazans are impacted in three crucial areas, energy, water and communications, which stunts any hope for stability. Currently, Gazans typically only have electricity for 3-4 hours per day, leaving them in darkness for about 21 hours. Most of Gaza’s fuel is provided by Israel at 120 megawatts (MW), while 60 MW are produced locally and 28 MW’s delivered by Egypt (until 2013 when Egypt shut down the tunnels under its border with Gaza, leaving Israel as the supplier of fuel, at triple the cost of Egyptian fuel). This amount barely supplies half of the 400 MW needed daily. As Gaza is almost entirely dependent on Israel, Israel plays a major role in the current energy crisis. Since Gaza’s main source of fuel comes from Israel, Israel has the ability to control and restrict the supply of fuel going into Gaza. Since Israel also has control over the crossings, it can restrict essential equipment necessary to make repairs under the notion that they might be used for military purposes and block any equipment entering or exiting Gaza for repair, such as the damage caused to the power plant and fuel reservoir in 2014. The only remaining reservoir is small and can only supply fuel for three days, requiring diesel to enter the Gaza Strip regularly or the power plant would shut down. The excise tax is 116% of the original price of the fuel, meaning that consumers pay more than double the base price; because of this and other contributing economic and social factors, 70% of Gazans unable to afford to pay their electric bill as 42% of Gazans are unemployed and 80% rely on some form of humanitarian aid as poverty levels run high.
The devastating energy crisis, accompanied by the blockade and war damage, impacts basic human necessities such as access to clean water. The lack of electricity and fuel disrupts access to clean water as it prevents regular operation and water pumps and wells. The water is contaminated with six times the recommended suitable amount of chlorides and nitrates, forcing Gazans to rely on trucked on bottled water as 95% of the water is unfit for human consumption. Sewage treatment plants cannot operate regularly, thus treatment cycles have decreased, resulting in only partially treated sewage into the sea. These infrastructural crisis’ deeply impact Gazans health as according to the World Health Organization (WHO), these unsanitary conditions can result in diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. To amplify these issues, several main hospitals barley have fuel to operate for five days and are forced to rely on generators. According to the WHO. “Volatile supplies of electricity has damaged sensitive medical equipment and disrupted the provision of medical services”. The impact on medical aid is worsened by the security blocks on travel through the primary crossing for the nearly 2 million residents, Erez Crossing. As of October 2016, only 44% of medical patients were approved entrance into Israel, as opposed to 92.5 % in 2012.
Additionally, the lack of electricity and fuel disrupts any chance of normal routine or stability in a world so reliant on electricity. Public transportation becomes unreliable; schools, universities and hospitals cannot operate functionally; Internet and cell phone use is limited; household appliances become inoperable, including air conditioning and heat in the winter. Industrial and agricultural sectors are limited impacting the ability to obtain/ sell fresh food while crops cannot be properly irrigated. By 2020, the electricity provision will need to double to meet population demand or Gaza could become uninhabitable.