CMEP Bulletin: Winter Storm Worsens Gaza Crisis
While a white Christmas season can be joyous, an unprecedented winter storm in the Holy Land is has created humanitarian hardship in Gaza. Gaza’s 1.6 million residents were already dealing with a fuel crisis that led to the shutdown of it’s main power plant and the subsequent overflow of waste water from the inoperative treatment facilities. 10,000 Gazans were evacuated from their homes after the storm caused further flooding.
The situation led Qatar, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to take steps to ameliorate the damage in the Hamas-run enclave. Qatar gave the Palestinian Authority $10 million to buy fuel from Israel. Israel delivered the first shipment Gaza has received in 45 days on Sunday. The fuel will allow for a partial resumption of the strip’s main power plant. According to the New York Times, “Ihab al-Ghussein, a spokesman for the Hamas government, said Qatar was also preparing to send a ship with diesel through an Israeli port, enough to keep the plant running for three months.” Before the latest delivery, Gazans were facing 21-hour a day blackouts.
According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHA-oPt), “the water and sewage infrastructure in the Gaza Strip was overstretched and partially non-operational prior to the storm. As of…14 December, several water storm lagoons and pumping stations across Gaza city have overflowed, flooding extensive residential areas.” Haaretz reports that Israel’s Mekorot water utility sent four water pumps to Gaza as requested by the Palestinian Authority via the United Nations. OCHA-oPt estimates five more are needed.
Despite such stopgap measures, Gaza is still in crisis. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said Saturday, “Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this.”