On 3 January 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Gaza’s hospitals will face an almost total power blackout by the end of February unless funding is secured to keep generators running. It is estimated that 500,000 liters of fuel are required each month to sustain hospital services in Gaza.
Gaza’s power crisis began in mid-2017 following a dispute over fuel taxes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Electricity outages last up to 19 hours each day. Hospitals continue to depend on back-up diesel-powered generators to maintain services. While helping avert a total power failure, generators are oftentimes overloaded and prone to malfunction.
Dr. Mahmoud Daher, head of the WHO’s office in Gaza, warned the strip’s health system is on “the edge of collapse.” It is estimated that electricity fluctuations damaged 150 essential medical machines, which require repair or replacement. The ongoing restriction on imports caused by the Israeli blockade only confounds the situation. Medical workers are cutting back on basic procedures, and are unable to consistently perform key functions like elective surgery, sterilization, and diagnostic services. The waiting time for elective surgery ranges around 42 weeks, well above the threshold of 24 weeks set by the Ministry of Health. The situation is also impacting the ability to collect, store and transport blood at acceptable standards.
On 4 January 2018, the Palestinian Authority requested that residents in Gaza begin paying their electric bills. Since 2006, the Palestinian Authority has paid Israel to supply electricity to Gaza. Mohammad Abu Jayyab, head of the Gaza Journal of Economics, responded to the government’s proposal saying, “… a large portion of the people in Gaza cannot afford to live – let alone pay for electricity.”
Both the Palestinian Authority and Israel must assume responsibility for the situation in Gaza and are once again called upon to immediately end the electricity crisis there.