PCHR: Gaza Is on the Brink of Health and Environmental Catastrophe Due to Power Outages and Lack of Fuel

PCHR: Gaza Is on the Brink of Health and Environmental Catastrophe Due to Power Outages and Lack of Fuel

Alert on situation in Gaza

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is gravely concerned over the current power crisis in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza power plant stopped working yesterday as the fuel required for it operation ran out completely, which has caused long periods of outages throughout the Gaza Strip.  The Gaza Strip is also suffering an acute shortage of fuel supplies and most fuel stations have ran out of fuel as a result.  PCHR expresses deep concerns over the disastrous repercussions of this crisis on the Palestinian civilian population, and its direct impacts on all vital services, especially drinking water supplies and health and sanitation facilities.

The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company announced that, as the operation of the Gaza power plant was totally stopped on Tuesday, 14 February 2012, which has increased the electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip to 65% of the daily needs, it faces unprecedented serious challenges.  The Company further pointed out in its statement that it will facing severe technical complications in the distribution of electricity to consumers, stressing that electricity supplies to various areas will be limited to 6 hours followed by 12 hours of outages daily.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza declared it is in a state of crisis since the operation of Gaza power plant stopped, suffering from an acute shortage in fuel supplies needed for the operation of electricity generators at hospitals and health care facilities.  Mr. Bassam Barhoum, Director of the General Supplies Stores of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, stated that the long periods of outages are combined with an acute shortage of fuel at hospitals across the Gaza Strip. The fuel deficit has risen to 72% while there is an urgent need to operate the electricity generators at hospitals and health care facilities.  He added that the level of fuel consumption at all hospitals has been 815 liters per hour.

Mr. Ashraf al-Qidra, Spokesman of the Ministry of Health, emphasized that more than 80% of patients in the Gaza Strip are threatened by a deterioration of their health conditions due to the power outages and the decreasing strategic stock of fuel required for the operation of electricity generators at hospitals and health care facilities.  He further warned of a health disaster that may directly affect all patients in vital departments of hospitals whose treatment depend on the availability of electricity supplies, especially prematurely born infants in incubators, who are currently more than 100. Also at risk are more than 400 patients suffering from renal failure, including 15 children, who need dialyses twice or three times a week; and 66 patients who are currently placed in intensive care units.  Al-Qidra indicated that 39 operation rooms, in addition to emergency and reception departments, gynecology departments, laboratories, and radiology departments in all hospitals of the Gaza Strip will become completely paralyzed if the crisis does not come to an end.

On its part, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) warned in a statement published on its website on Tuesday, 14 February 2011, of its inability to supply water to people in appropriate amounts if the crisis of outages continues to persist.  It pointed out that in spite of CMWU’s ongoing efforts to operate wells and pumping plants during periods of outages, they cannot solve the problem because it is impossible to establish consistency between schedules of water distribution and schedules of electricity distribution in various areas in the Gaza Strip due to the long periods of outages, which causes disruption in the regular program of supplying areas with water, and thus impacts all aspects of life of people in the Gaza Strip.

It is worth noting that the Palestinian Energy Authority in Gaza announced that the operation of the Gaza power plant was totally stopped on Tuesday morning, 14 February 2012, due to the lack of fuel. The Energy Authority alleged that the lack of fuel is due to the intentional measures taken to prevent the delivery of fuel to Gaza.  It should be noted that the operation of the Gaza power plant used to depend on industrial fuel imported from Israel.  Due to frequent closures of border crossing and denial of regular supply of fuel, in addition to the high fuel price, the Palestinian Energy Authority stopped importing industrial fuel from Israel in January 2011.  Instead, it decided to bring Egyptian fuel from Egypt through tunnels along the Palestinian – Egyptian border, as its technicians succeeded in adapting its use for the operation of the Gaza power plant.

In light of the above, PCHR:

  1. Warns of the serious consequences of the total shutdown of the Gaza power plant and the resulting impact on the access of 1.6 million Palestinians to vital services, including the supply of drinking water, and on the work in some vital sectors such as health, sanitation, and education;
  2. Stresses the responsibility and obligations of the State of Israel, as the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip, according to international humanitarian law, regarding the wellbeing of the civilian population in the occupied territory, and accordingly, it is required to allow the passage of basic materials, included the fuel needed for the operation of Gaza power plant, and is prohibited from imposing restrictions on the entry of basic materials into the occupied territory and using such restrictions as a form of collective punishment against the civilian population;
  3. Calls upon all the concerned parties, including the two Palestinian governments in Gaza and Ramallah and the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, to exert all possible and necessary efforts to provide fuel needed to re-operate the Gaza power plant, and to ensure the continued operation of the plant;
  4. Reiterates that it is necessary to immediately look for strategic solutions for ending the ongoing power crisis which has been affecting the Gaza Strip for approximately 6 years; and
  5. Stresses that Palestinian civilians must not bear the brunt of the failure of the parties responsible for this crisis. Thus, these parties must be committed to provide Palestinian civilians with power services under all circumstances.