Question of Palestine home
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
31 January 2008
Overview- Key Issues
Update on Gaza Closure
On 15 January, Israeli forces moved into the Shajaya and Zeitoun neigbourhoods of Gaza City for a period of about 48 hours. Following this incursion clashes took place between the IDF and Palestinian militants at other different locations. During the first days of fighting, at least 18 Palestinians were killed, along with an Ecuadorean kibbutz volunteer who was shot by Palestinian militants as he worked in fields close to the Gaza border fence. After the incursion, militants launched dozens of rockets and mortars across the Green Line. On 18 January, Israel announced that it was suspending the movement of fuel and goods into Gaza. Within days, the Gaza power station had run out of fuel and ceased operation for approximately two days. The majority of Gazans, who had been accustomed to power cuts of four hours per day, had no electricity for 12 hours per day. Health and water services were forced to rely on their small supplies of diesel to power back-up generators.
Gaza’s water authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), said that, within days, many of its facilities had run out of fuel and it was unable to operate its wells, leaving 40-50 per cent of the population with no access to running water. The CMWU’s ability to treat sewage was also hampered by the reduced supplies of diesel and its lack of spare parts, which Israel has refused to allow to enter since June 2007. By 20 January 20, the CMWU was pumping raw sewage into the sea at the rate of 40 million litres per day for ten days, because it could not pump it to the treatment plants. No supplies entered Gaza from 18 – 21 January and WFP found that it was unable to provide its full food ration to 50,000 of its 84,000 social hardship beneficiaries, while 10,000 received none of their monthly allocation. WFP also had to stop its Food for Work and Food for Training programmes because it could not import tools or provide training without electricity. UNRWA announced that they would be forced to suspend food deliveries if Israel did not allow the import of sacking for food distribution.
On 22 January, Israel began to allow goods and fuel to enter Gaza, averting an immediate disaster. The following day, militants destroyed the steel border wall which divides Gaza from Egypt. Crowds of Gazans entered Egypt, many of them buying goods that had been barred by Israel, such as cement and fertiliser. It was impossible to quantify the number of Gazans who entered Egypt, but the streets of Gaza City were empty and traffic was backed up from Rafah to Khan Yunis. Some analysts estimate that Gazans spent $150 million in Egypt, buying food, livestock and other goods that were in short supply. Some Egyptians entered Gaza to buy vegetables.
Impact of Fuel & Electricity Shortages on Health Services in the Gaza Strip (WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA)
Israel’s decision to halt the entry of fuel into Gaza had a significant impact on the provision of health services. While the decision was suspended on 22 January, the distribution of fuel to Ministry of Health (MoH) facilities to function emergency generators during the electricity outages did not start on the 22nd as the amount of fuel that was allowed to enter into Gaza was insufficient for domestic use and the amount of fuel received by the local power plant was insufficient for it to function at full capacity. As a result, the average number of hours of electricity outage per day increased to 12 hours, which affected the provision of health services at the MoH health facilities during the period of 17-31 January. Three out of the 11 MoH hospitals faced severe shortages of fuel and two declared a “state of emergency.” The provision of diagnostic services and dental services stopped in 32 (out of 56) MoH Primary Health Care facilities (PHC) due to the absence of functioning generators. The provision of immunization services were maintained with difficulties during the electricity outage hours. The provision of Reproductive Health (RH) services was also affected by the interruptions to the fuel supply and electricity outages. (For more details, please see Health section herein.)
Complete document in PDF format