Locked between Egypt’s Rafah crossing and the Israeli border – the main entry point for fuel and power – Gaza has been suffering from a severe power crisis that has only intensified so far this year. The city’s main power plant ran out of fuel this April, leaving two million citizens with only six hours of electricity per day. The remaining supply to power the city covers less than a third of its daily consumption, said Gaza’s electricity company.
The power shortage is mainly caused by a dispute between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah. The PA imposes fuel taxes on the fuel being sold to Gaza, which Hamas claims it can no longer afford. Ramallah also made it clear that it will no longer pay the invoices Israel provided for an additional 120MW of electricity.
Although the situation in Gaza endangers the lives of all its residents, it will be particularly harmful for patients at the city’s public hospitals. Without aid, 14 hospitals will be forced to stop providing essential services either in part or in full. On 27 April 2017, the World Health Organization warned that without any power, 100 patients in intensive care units, 658 hemodialysis beneficiaries and 113 newborns in neonatal intensive care units will be in grave danger.
Gaza’s power shortage is increasing pressure on hospitals and health facilities to provide adequate medical assistance to patients. If power supplies are exhausted, about 40 surgical operation theatres, 11 obstetric operation theatres, five hemodialysis centers and hospital emergency rooms that treat around 4,000 people will be at risk of closure or interrupted work.
Aside from the energy crisis, Gaza has additionally experienced serious water shortages for the past 15 years. Consequently, citizens have had to rely on uncontrolled water supplies with lower hygiene standards. These water sources may negatively impact the population’s health, a problem compounded by the increasing challenges faced by Gaza’s health facilities. If these shortages persist, the city will become, as the UN has warned, unlivable by 2020.
The political conflict between Hamas and the PA affects the lives of two million Palestinians living in Gaza. It has not only reduced the amount of power supplied to citizens, but has also undermined the strip’s healthcare system. These actions are indirectly violating the non-interference principle of medical impartiality by limiting and obstructing civilians’ access to adequate medical care.