The current fuel crisis in Gaza, now in its fifth month, is causing extended power outages that severely disrupt the lives, health and livelihood of the region’s 1.6 million residents. It also severely affects the fuel-dependent fishing industry, already crippled by restricted access to Gaza’s fishing waters imposed by Israel’s blockade. The Gaza Power Plant produced electricity at less than 30 per cent of capacity in April, causing severe disruption to basic services, including water, health and sanitation.
Oxfam’s partner, the Coastal Municipal Water Utility says the situation is critical, with up to 40 per cent of the 1.6 million population under blockade getting water in their houses only once every four days.
The situation will get even more critical as summer approaches and demand for water escalates.
Without regular supplies of fuel to run pumps, water and sewage facilities, including water wells, sewage pump stations, wastewater treatment plants, desalination units and water lifting stations remain vulnerable to collapse, leaving entire towns exposed to all the ensuing public health risks.
Um Bader and her neighbours, citizens of al- Zarqa, are seriously worried. This neighbourhood outside Gaza City previously had no municipal water and sanitation services, but an Oxfam project recently connected houses to a sewage network and water supply.
But without sufficient fuel to power the pumps, they are afraid they will soon return to living without running water and with cesspits overflowing into the streets.
‘When the work started in our street I couldn’t believe that someone had finally taken us into consideration,’ Um Bader says. ‘We were living in horrible conditions – our house was flooded everyday with sewage seeping out of septic tanks, our furniture ruined, and children kept falling in the sewage pools. But now I’m worried because the fuel crisis keeps dragging on and the pumping stations break down all the time. I’m terrified I’ll see the sewage flooding our streets again.’
Just the stench of sewage strikes Um Bader like a nasty flashback as she recalls the infections and diseases her family experienced for decades without water and sanitation services.
‘I was constantly cleaning the house. The stress, the depression all this brought with it, was too much to handle.’