Living in the dark: Gazans talk about the electricity crisis

The electricity crisis is having a critical impact on Gaza’s health sector.

A Palestinian woman stands by a fence during a protest calling for an end to the power crisis, outside the power plant in the central Gaza Strip April 23, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Palestinian woman stands by a fence during a protest calling for an end to the power crisis, outside the power plant in the central Gaza Strip April 23, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When the clock struck 11 on Tuesday morning, Fadi Omar raced back to his house through the congested streets of Gaza City – the young Palestinian wanted to take advantage of the few hours of available electricity.
“Today, electricity was only available from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at my house,” said Omar, who works in the flooring business and asked that his real name not be used so he could speak freely. “I wanted to turn on the washing machine to wash my family’s clothing. I also wanted to charge batteries so we could use our flashlights in the evening.”
Omar is one of some 2 million resident in the Strip who are dealing with the increasingly unbearable situation of being without electricity for most of the day.
Gaza power crisis
Gaza, which requires between 350-450 megawatts of electricity daily, has long suffered from an inadequate electricity infrastructure.
The small territory usually receives about half of what it needs – some 60MW from a power plant, 120MW from Israel and 27MW from Egypt.
But Gaza has received significantly less electricity in recent weeks as a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in April led to the closure of the only power plant, leaving the residents with an average of four hours of electricity a day. The plant is still closed.
Gaza likely will receive even less electricity in the coming days as Israel, at the request of the PA , is slated to reduce the amount of electricity it supplies the strip by 35%. The PA made the request to pressure Hamas to cede control of the strip.
Muhammad Azaizeh, a father of three from Gaza City, said the electricity crisis has complicated life for his children.
“They are sweating throughout the night and are not able to get a good night of sleep,” said Azaizeh, who works as a field researcher for Gisha, an Israeli human rights group.
“We have a subscription to a small generator, but it only gives us electricity for the lights and television.”
Many Gazans have turned to back-up generators to deal with the frequent power outages, but the cost of a subscription can be burdensome.
Azaizeh added that the electricity crisis has compelled his family to buy small amounts of food.
“We cannot depend on the fridge and freezer to store our food,” he remarked. “So we have resorted to purchasing food daily.”
Mustafa Ali (also not his real name), a man from Gaza City who is paralyzed from his legs down, has barely been able to charge his electric wheelchair.
“I charge the chair when the electricity comes, but it’s not enough – it really needs to be charged for 10 hours,” said Ali, whose family does not benefit from a back-up generator.
“Without a charged chair, I can’t go out regularly.”
The electricity crisis is also having a critical impact on Gaza’s health sector.
According to Physicians for Human Rights Israel, Gaza’s hospitals are largely running on a series of 87 back-up generators.
If those generators stop working due to a lack of fuel, the human rights group estimates that the lives of 833 intensive care and dialysis patients will be at risk.
Moreover, the Cystic Fibrosis Friends in Gaza, a health advocacy group, said the electricity crisis has limited 321 cystic fibrosis patients’ access to inhalation- monitoring devices.
“The electricity crisis has put cystic fibrosis patients in a dire situation,” said Ashraf al-Shanti, director of the Cystic Fibrosis Friends in Gaza.
Omar expressed hope that the Palestinian and Israeli authorities would find a solution as soon as possible.
“Hamas, the [Palestinian] Authority and Israel need to realize that the people are suffering. Every few months there’s a new crisis,” he said. “I hope this will end soon and we will be able to break our [Ramadan] fast with electricity.”