Gaza power outages soar from mere 8 hours off to 20 hour outages

By Eva Bartlett

When I spoke with friends in Gaza a few days ago, they were already saying the power cuts were on the unbearable side. This, from people who know patience intimately.

How they must feel, cut off and ostracized from the world, their suffering endless, layers upon layers of misery forced on them.

It’s only getting worse.

07 September 2013, UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to the Occupied Palestinian territory

“On 5 September, the Palestinian Energy Authority (PENRA) warned that the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) will be forced to shut down completely in three days due to lack of fuel. If the GPP shuts down, the overall power supply deficit will result in power outages of up to 12 to 16 hours a day, up from the current 8 to 12 hours.

Gaza also receives 45 per cent of its energy needs from Israel (35 per cent) and Egypt (10 per cent).

To avoid a crisis, PENRA called upon the Egyptian authorities to urgently facilitate the transfer of fuel, either through the Rafah Crossing or Israel, donated by the Government of Qatar, which has been held up in Egypt since March 2013. In total, less than 11.5 million of the approximately 30 million litres of fuel donated by Qatar has entered the Gaza Strip.

The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) has reported that, at present, there is no fuel stock to power the standby generators at 288 Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities across Gaza. One sewage pump station in Jabaliya overflowed on Wednesday and 15,000 m3 of sewage were urgently removed to a nearby storm water lagoon. The WASH Cluster has reported that the lack of fuel is severely disrupting the routine collection of 1,500 tons of solid waste.

Ministry of Health (MoH) officials have stated that the lack of fuel for the Gaza Power Plant is the most critical problem facing the operation of the health sector – more than the lack of drugs or difficulties in transferring referred patients to Egypt. Gaza’s 14 hospitals and 60 health centres, and their generators, have been relying on 250,000 litres of cheap heavily-subsidized Egyptian fuel each month, The MoH must now use more expensive Israeli fuel, significantly increasing running costs, and, longer power cuts will entail MoH having to employ generators for longer periods.

Fuel shortages stemming from tunnels closures and higher fuel prices have increased costs for the operation of agricultural wells, as approximately 60 per cent of the 10,000 agricultural wells in the Gaza Strip rely on diesel fuel. These increased costs will impact farmers, as they embark on the autumn planting season. Fishermen’s livelihoods are also affected due to quotas on fuel purchases, imposed by the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture in the context of overall shortages, and because the high cost of available fuel, in many cases, outweighs the value of the potential fishing catch.

Background

Since June 2013, Egyptian security officials have carried out a range of measures targeting smuggling tunnels running under the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The measures have resulted in shortages of construction materials and fuel, which is significantly cheaper from the tunnels than fuel purchased from Israel. In the last week, the Government of Egypt continued to implement measures to restrict tunnel activity. Local sources indicate that, for the second successive week, fewer than ten tunnels are operational, compared to around 50 during previous weeks, and an estimated 300 before the imposition of the current measures.

On average, around 200,000 litres of heavily-subsidized Egyptian fuel were transferred per day in the past two weeks, compared to around one million litres daily during previous weeks. Due to the shortage, import of much more expensive petrol from Israel continued, with over 700,000 litres of petrol purchased from Israel by private contractors, compared to 235,000 litres imported during the previous week.

Recent Egyptian measures take place in the context of ongoing and strict movement and access restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities at the official crossings, tightened following the Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.”

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