|Import of construction materials for international projects resumes
This week, the Israeli authorities allowed the resumption of the import of basic construction materials for international projects. These materials had been suspended since 13 October, following the discovery of a tunnel under the fence between Gaza and Israel. The halt in the import of materials had resulted in the freezing of dozens of projects carried out by international organizations, which had previously been approved by the Israeli authorities, including 20 housing and infrastructure projects implemented by UNRWA. Following the decision, the first four truckloads of cement and aggregates entered Gaza on 10 December. Despite the limited quantities of construction material allowed to enter Gaza between December 2012 and October 2013, the general ban on the import of construction materials for the private sector remains in place.
As the cash crops export season is coming to its peak, 19 truckloads of agricultural produce were allowed to exit Gaza to international markets. However, the Israeli authorities continue to prohibit the exit of Gazan products to the West Bank and Israel, which are their main markets, preventing a revival of Gaza’s productive capacity.
Severe energy crisis continues
The Gaza Strip continued to experience fuel and energy shortages resulting in electricity cuts of up to 16 hours per day. This situation is ongoing for the sixth consecutive week, since the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant (GPP) on 1 November. The shortages have impacted the delivery of essential services, including health, water, sanitation and schooling, all of which depend on the operation of backup generators during electricity outages. As the winter season begins, the current electricity deficit is estimated to be around 80 per cent of the actual demand.
To alleviate some of the impact of the fuel shortages on services, on 2-3 December, some 165,000 liters of fuel donated by the Turkish Government was distributed to 12 health facilities serving 1.27 million people, 80 water and sewage treatment facilities serving at least 910,000 people, and 27 solid waste management installations providing for some 1.44 million people.
Clean-up operations have been mostly completed for the sewage spills from the main sewage pump station that overflowed on 13 November, flooding an area of nearly 160,000 square meters in Az- Zeitoun area south of Gaza City, affecting some 3,000 people.
Concern over deterioration in health services
On 8 December, the World Health Organization issued a statement expressing concern over Gaza’s health crisis due to shortages in basic supplies. The strains on the health system have particularly affected emergency patients, newborns, chronically ill, transplant recipients, people with special needs and the poor. Roughly 30 per cent of medicines and 50 per cent of medical disposables are out of stock at the Central Drug Store in Gaza, and the entry of medication and disposables has been hampered by the Palestinian Authority’s budget deficit; over the past six months, PA medical shipments have been reduced to one shipment of 1 million USD compared to 5 million USD in the six months prior.
Large generators for powering hospitals during electricity cuts have frequent breakdowns. Government hospitals have reduced non-urgent surgeries by almost half in an effort to conserve fuel and medical supplies for urgent cases. Power shortages cause a chain reaction of consequences affecting the health situation of the people in Gaza, as water supplies are limited, sewage pumps are not functioning adequately, and transportation for basic public health services is irregular.
Rafah Crossing update
After nine consecutive days of closure, on 30 November, the Egyptian Authorities reopened the Rafah Crossing on 8 December. During its three days of operation this week, 931 people entered Gaza, 1,019 people crossed into Egypt, while 81 people were denied entry into Egypt. Furthermore, on 9 December, approximately 300 travelers in fives buses were turned back on the Palestinian side after waiting for several hours to cross. According to the Border and Crossing Authority in Gaza, the Crossing will be opened on an exceptional basis for five days, from 8 – 12 December. Since early July 2013, Egyptian Authorities have kept the Rafah Crossing closed with irregular, exceptional openings to allow for the passage of a limited number of authorized humanitarian cases.