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Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
29 April 2008

ICRC warns Gaza is running out of fuel

The current fuel crisis is causing increasing hardship for the people of the Gaza Strip. The ICRC warns that the long-term consequences may be severe if sufficient supplies are not made available to ordinary people and for facilities like public transport, hospitals and water pumping stations.
Ten per cent of nurses, doctors and other hospital staff are unable to get to work due to lack of transport. As a result, patients are having to wait for operations. Several have simply given up trying to reach hospital. Schools and universities are only functioning partially, with some 15-20 per cent of children, students and teachers absent. There are few cars on the usually crowded streets. Even in Gaza City, donkeys have become the usual means of transportation.

Daily life affected

"This is affecting every aspect of daily life. Farmers cannot harvest their crops, fishermen cannot go to sea and workers have difficulties getting around," said Antoine Grand, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Gaza.

If the fuel crisis is not resolved soon, it will have a serious effect on food, health and education in Gaza. Hospitals and sewage pumping stations are on the verge of running out of fuel for their backup generators. When the fuel is gone, these facilities will be totally dependent on mains electricity, making them highly vulnerable to power cuts.

Onions and garlic may rot in the fields

"The lack of fuel will also severely damage the agricultural sector and the fishing industry. The sardine season is approaching, and the onion and garlic harvest is supposed to take place over the coming days and weeks. If there is no fuel available for the harvest and for irrigation, the crops will rot in the fields," adds Grand.

UN forced to abandon assistance

Humanitarian organizations are also affected by the crisis. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) ran out of fuel on 24 April, forcing it to stop distributing food. Médecins Sans Frontières has been forced to scale back its work and neither UNWRA nor the World Food Programme, who together feed over one million Gazans, will be able to start distributing food again until they receive diesel for their trucks.

As Grand points out, "Suspension of this assistance will have catastrophic consequences".

The ICRC has already called for political solutions to the ongoing conflict on a number of occasions, pointing out that solving the problems is far beyond the ability of humanitarian organizations. Currently, aid workers are finding it difficult to operate in Gaza at all.

Fuel running out

The amount of fuel available to the people of Gaza has been falling since October 2007. By March 2008, the amount of petrol available had fallen by an estimated 80%, while quantities of diesel had fallen by half. On 7 April, fuel distributors in Gaza went on strike in protest against the lack of fuel. Following the killing of two Israeli workers by Palestinian militants at a fuel station in Nahal Oz near Gaza, Israel has further restricted the amount of fuel entering the Strip.

Antoine Grand: "We urge all parties to allow the civilian population of Gaza to live normal, decent lives."

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