Gaza will be unlivable in three years the United Nations warned amid an ongoing electricity crisis, as the 2 million Palestinians in the Strip struggle to live on three hours of power a day.
The population is growing faster and the infrastructure and the economy are deteriorating more rapidly than anticipated, the UN said in a report.
“Gaza has continued on its trajectory of de-development, in many cases even faster than we had originally projected,” said Robert Piper, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aid and development activities.
“Ongoing humanitarian assistance especially through UNRWA’s services, are helping slow this descent, but the downward direction remains clear,” Piper said after the report’s release.
It marked 10 years since Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza in a bloody coup, but in some cases looked back to the year 2000, when the Oslo peace process fell apart.
Immediately after Hamas took power, Israel moved to isolate the terrorist group by restricting the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza, limiting access to the sea and working with Egypt to enforce a military blockade to prevent security threats.
At the same time, Hamas has been embroiled in near constant disputes with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
In making a play to reclaim Gaza, the PA has limited financial transfers to Gaza, placed an onerous tax on the diesel fuel needed to run the power plant and asked Israel to cut back on the electricity it supplies.
The upshot is that Gaza’s population, which is projected to grow by another 10% – from 2 million to 2.2 million in the next three years – is being squeezed on all sides.
“I see this extraordinarily inhuman and unjust process of strangling gradually 2 million civilians in Gaza who really pose a threat to nobody,” Piper told Reuters.
The report described Gaza as a place with a population density of 5,479 (per sq. km.) and 42% unemployment.
“Over one million Palestinians in Gaza are moderately to severely food insecure, despite many of them already receiving food assistance or other forms of social transfers,” the report stated.
As of April, Gaza, which had received about 12 hours of power a day, was reduced to four and then to three. On Tuesday, its residents had only 90 MW of power, down from the 240 MW it had received only a few months earlier. Gaza needs about 450-500 MW to receive power 24-hours a day.
The UN issued particularly dire statements about the Gaza water and sewage pollution, particularly in light of the shortage of electricity.
“It is forecast that by 2020 Gaza’s coastal aquifer will be irreversibly damaged. The impact of this will be catastrophic.
Already the supply of water in Gaza does not meet the global WHO standards of 100 liters per person per day.
In order to meet this standard, 73 million cubic meters would currently be required in Gaza – but the supply is only 58.32 m.cu.m. or 80% of demand,” the report stated.
Seventeen years ago, 98% of the people in Gaza had access to safe drinking water through a public network, the report stated. In 2014, only 10.5% of people in Gaza had safe drinking water and the majority of it, 90%, came from water tanks and bottles.
Even non-drinkable water is hard to come by, with 50% of the population receiving water for eight hours every fourth day, 30% every third day and 20% every second day.
Sea-water has entered the coastal aquifer because of overuse and 96.2% of groundwater is “unfit for human consumption,” the report stated.
Additional water supplies from Israel have helped meet water needs until the end of this year when the coastal aquifer will become unusable, the report stated.
The lack of electricity in Gaza has reduced the ability of the waste water treatment facilities to handle Gaza sewage, so that 100,000 cubic meters of untreated waste per day was dumped into the ocean in 2016, compared with 90,000 cu.m. in 2012. That number is supposed to rise to 120,000 cu.m. by 2020.
Israeli restrictions on the entry of fuel and the lack of electricity has delayed the implementation of the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment Plant which could treat 36,000 cu.m. of waste water a day. Even if that plant were fully operational, additional treatment plants would be needed. The situation will not be resolved until Gaza has a reliable supply of electricity, the UN said.
It called on Israel, the PA , Hamas and the international community to take action.
“The alternative” warned Piper, “will be a Gaza that is more isolated and more desperate.
The threat of a renewed, more devastating escalation will increase, and the prospects for intra-Palestinian reconciliation will dwindle – and with them, the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
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