In the Gaza Strip, the unsustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) situation exacerbated by the longstanding blockade has been compounded by the 2014 conflict. Problems arising from the prohibition on entry of ‘dual-use’ materials, inadequate power supplies and lack of government regulation have seriously affected the WASH situation in Gaza. The majority of Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank are not connected to the water network or are irregularly supplied by it, forcing people to rely on expensive tankered water. Inadequate water for drinking, domestic consumption and for livestock, is affecting the overall resilience of these communities. The destruction of essential WASH infrastructure lacking building permits generates a coercive environment, and can lead to displacement, poverty and increased risk of disease and illness.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, warned today about the disastrous consequences of a further reduction in electricity-supply to the Gaza Strip on the living conditions of two million Palestinians. He called upon the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Israel to put the welfare of Gaza’s residents first and to take the necessary measures to avoid further suffering. The UN has already appealed to the international community to support its limited humanitarian efforts to prevent the collapse of vital life-saving, health, water, sanitation and municipal services.
On 17 April, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. The shutdown occurred in the context of an ongoing dispute between the Palestinian authorities in Gaza and Ramallah on tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers.
The UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, Robert Piper, expressed concern about the deteriorating energy situation in the Gaza Strip and called for swift action from Israeli and Palestinian authorities and members of the international community to protect the provision of critical basic services to Gaza’s 1.9 million residents.
On 17 April, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. Prior to this, the GPP was operating at only approximately half of its capacity, producing nearly 30 per cent of the electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip. On 20 April, electricity supply from Egypt, which accounts for 15 per cent of Gaza’s supply, also came to a halt due to technical malfunctioning that is yet to be repaired. Gaza is currently supplied only with electricity purchased from Israel (some 55 per cent of the previous supply), resulting in electricity blackouts of 20 hours per day, up from 12 hours previously, further undermining the delivery of basic services.
In the Gaza Strip more than 95 per cent of the water extracted from the aquifer lying underneath it is unfit for human consumption. This stems mainly from long-standing over-extraction, compounded by infiltration of raw sewage and seawater. Chloride and nitrate levels in the water extracted in most areas exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for potable water by up to eight times. As Gaza’s population continues to grow, a 2012 UN report predicted that water demand in Gaza would increase by 60 per cent by 2020, while damage to the aquifer may become irreversible.
The ten-year-long political dispute between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, along with the Israeli-imposed blockade and repeated outbreaks of hostilities, continue to severely disrupt the provision of basic services in Gaza, including those provided by Gaza’s 25 municipalities. These municipalities face profound challenges in meeting their responsibilities to a population approaching two million, crammed into one of the most densely populated and confined areas in the world.