UNICEF and partners deliver critical fuel supplies amid severe shortages of electricity in the blockaded Gaza Strip
By Sajy Elmughanni
Rafah, occupied Palestinian territory, 12 May 2011- When the power goes out as usual in Abdulla’s house, his first concern is not the inconvenience of having dead electronic appliances or spending another dark night with his children, but rather it is the agony of lacking running water.
“It is unbearable when that happens,” said Abdulla. “We cannot bathe or flush the toilets among many other things and it eventually becomes a completely unhygienic situation”.
This problem is not only Abdulla’s; rather it belongs to 1.5 million Gazans who suffer from severe interruption of water and sanitation services due to daily power outages. This dilemma has been created by an on-going Israeli blockade of Gaza since 2007, which restricts the entry of industrial fuel and spare parts needed to run Gaza’s power plant.
The situation becomes even more exacerbated by lack of fuel needed to run standby power generators intended to keep the services running.
“The humanitarian impact of such situation is dire , the continuous disruption of water and sanitation services could lead to an increase in water borne diseases especially among children in addition to a major deterioration in hygiene conditions,” said WASH Cluster Coordinator (UNICEF) Yasser Nasser. “It will also increase the amounts of untreated sewage dumped directly to the Mediterranean which will further contaminate the seawater and the surrounding beaches.”
To respond to this emergency, UNICEF is supplying fuel to standby power generators in water and waste water facilities in the Gaza Strip. This initiative has been launched thanks to the UNOCHA’s administered Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) with the assistance of UNRWA; it will help keep these facilities running during long hours of power outage.
Now Gaza residents, especially those who live in elevated areas or in high rise buildings where power is needed to pump water up the flats, will have increased access to running water, while risks of sewage overflow in densely populated areas will decrease.
The Humanitarian Response Fund (HRF) provides the Humanitarian Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory with rapid and flexible funding. Typically, the HRF will be activated in the onset of an emergency to support life-saving interventions and prevent a further erosion of communities’ livelihoods, until main stream funding is available.
HRF projects are made possible by the generous contributions of the governments of Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Contributions to the fund are channelled through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on behalf of the Humanitarian Coordinator.