4 Ways the Gaza Electricity Crisis Makes Life Unlivable

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Gaza has long suffered from a severe electricity shortage, but this summer it has reached a breaking point. Just today, temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), eight degrees higher than the average for this time of year. Worse, Gaza residents currently get only six to eight hours of power per day, if they get any at all. Local news reports indicate that there is a deficit of 440 megawatts in the electricity supply.

What does that mean?

It means that each night in Gaza City is dark, except for the distant glow of windows from those lucky few who have generators. It means that hospital patients are surviving at the mercy of those same lucky, few generators. It means that what little water exists is inaccessible. Below, we list four major ways the Gaza electricity crisis has made life in the isolated enclave—already difficult—nearly impossible.

1. Water and Sewage Networks Need Power

Electricity shortages hamper the operations of local water and sanitation facilities, desalination plants, sewage pumping stations, and wastewater treatment facilities.

Already, over 90% of water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption. But with the power crisis, the little available water cannot be purified and pumped up to the top floors of apartment buildings. Desalination plants can’t function without power, so the water supply dwindles each day.

Sewage networks can’t function without power, either. This has been a catastrophe in Gaza, which lacked sufficient sewage facilities to begin with. Roughly 108,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage flows into the Mediterranean Sea every day as a result.

A merchant with his freshly washed Spanish radishes in front of the Anera-renovated water well pump facility in Jabalia refugee camp, Gaza.
A merchant with his freshly washed Spanish radishes in front of the Anera-renovated water well pump facility in Jabalia refugee camp, Gaza. Photo by Ibrahim Zanoun.

2. Health is a Luxury

Hospitals and their patients are surviving on a carefully rationed emergency fuel supply that’s in serious danger of running out, as well as overworked generators that break down often. At Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, power consumption is triaged and becomes wholly reliant upon diesel generators, endangering care for patients who rely on vital machinery like dialysis units and oxygen respirators. Meanwhile, surgeries often need to be rescheduled and sterilization protocols loosened.

Because it’s been an exceptionally hot summer, families have been sleeping on rooftops to escape the oppressive heat indoors without air conditioning or fans. Meanwhile, everyday cleaning, like doing laundry or washing hands, is now even more difficult – creating conditions for disease to spread.

A doctor at a clinic in Beit Lahia that Anera built and provided with solar power. He and the other medical professionals there count on having a reliable source of electricity to run their equipment and keep their medicines safe.

3. No Internet, No Work

If Gaza were a country, it would have the highest unemployment rate in the world, at 45%. The youth unemployment rate is even higher. Yet the fortunate who have jobs are struggling without electricity for their phones and computers. The others, especially jobless youth, can’t use the internet to look for work.

Without internet access, Gaza is even more isolated from the world.

Tweet from Mohammed Jad Salem with his photographs of Shati Refugee Camp on July 17, 2023.

4. Crops are Vulnerable

Agriculture is a source of income for a large part of Gaza. But, because of electricity shortages, Gaza farmers are often forced to buy expensive fuel to run the generators that irrigate their crops – otherwise they risk losing all of their crops and going out of business. So the cost of produce rises while the quality of crops falls.

Due to this unprecedented heat and power outages, families in Gaza are seeking refuge at the Mediterranean Sea to escape the heat waves.

Anera installs solar-powered irrigation systems in Gaza. This one, in Rafah, serves 11 farmers and also pumps water that has passed through a reverse osmosis desalination unit.

We first published a version of this piece in July 2017. Unfortunately, the situation has remained little changed and the sweltering summer that Gazans are enduring without relief is once again in the news. The text has been updated.



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