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The Gaza ghetto


Gaza stinks. There is not enough water for daily washing, not enough electricity to carry away sewage or for any sanitation amenities, let alone the luxury of air-conditioning. Photo from Save the Children.

Gaza: Over 1 million children in ‘unlivable’ circumstances

By Jonathan Fenton-Harvey, Informed Comment
September 05, 2017

Over a million children in Gaza are living in impoverished circumstances due to electricity shortages, causing problems for public health and education, warned Save the Children on Tuesday.

The international NGO says Israel’s ongoing land, air and sea blockade of Gaza, which has been in place since 2007, is the primary cause of the electricity shortages.

Save the Children also highlights that Gaza’s sole power plant had stopped functioning in April 2017 after exhausting its fuel reserves, since operators could not replenish them due to insufficient funds. The plant, already damaged from Israel’s war on Gaza in 2009, had provided a third of Gaza’s electricity.

“The Palestinian Authority stopped funding electricity to Gaza in April 2017. Egypt as a supplier had dropped out too, despite reportedly offering Gaza’s power plant a recent emergency boost, which leaves Gaza dependent on Israel.”

Most homes in Gaza now have just two to four hours of electricity per day, while some have no one at all. Many children spent the recent Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha in the dark.

“While politicians celebrate Eid and sleep in their air-conditioned homes, Gaza’s children are sweating in the stifling summer heat, unable to sleep, play or study”, said Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director in the Occupied Territories. “We shouldn’t have to be demanding such a basic service as electricity for the children of Gaza. A couple of hours of power a day is just not acceptable in 2017.”

Gaza’s schools barely operate at functional levels, with 741 of schools having no electricity, reports Save the Children. Children struggle to sleep, making it harder for them to concentrate in school. Darkness at home often prevents children from completing their homework.

“We are different from other countries that have 24 hours of electricity, and their life is not like ours. I have so many dreams. But my main dream is that I could be like other children and live in peace, security, and have electricity,” says Rania, a 13-year-old living in Gaza.


A Palestinian boy is bathed and cooled by his mother with water from a tank filled by a charity during a power cut inside their dwelling in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. Photo taken  July 3, 2017 by Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Many children’s lives are at risk, with a breakdown of health and emergency services. This prevents treatment of water-borne diseases, which are increasing due to pollution of groundwater sources and the nearby Mediterranean Sea.Due to suspension of sewage treatment cycles, over 108 million litres of untreated sewage fall into the water each day, leaving over 60% of the sea surrounding Gaza polluted with untreated sewage.

90% of water sources are too contaminated for human consumption, leaving children with little or no access to clean drinking water. Many cannot take regular baths or showers too, due to non-functioning water pumps.

The situation is particularly dire for 15-year-old Ali, who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy, relying on an electric wheelchair.

Ali’s mother Yara said:

“My son is dying in front of my eyes. He can’t sleep most nights, and suffers from continuous pain. We don’t have enough power to get his electric wheelchair and mattress fully charged. If his wheelchair doesn’t get charged, he suffers psychologically, as he sees people around him move and walk but he can’t. He feels depressed and often fights with other children. When the wheelchair runs out of battery, Ali becomes totally paralysed.

“He also needs constant showers as he is wearing diapers, but there is no water. We don’t get water unless there is electricity. If I don’t change his diapers and wash him regularly he will suffer from skin rashes and other problems. We have not had any tap water for two days. I feel suffocated.”

Ali himself said: “I used to enjoy going to the beach to see the sand and the sea, but unfortunately I can’t go there anymore now.”

The United Nations warned in 2012 that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020, yet the NGO says the Strip is already “unliveable”.

“Sadly, the children of Gaza are caught in one of the most politicised conflicts in the world,” continued Jennifer Morehead:

“The continued Israeli occupation and splits within the Palestinian leadership are making life unbearable. If you’re ten years old in Gaza you’ve already witnessed three massive and violent escalations of conflict.

“Gaza’s children are already suffering through a ten-year blockade and the constant threat of conflict. Living without access to basic services like electricity is affecting their family life and mental well-being. We’re seeing increased levels of anxiety, aggression and mood swings.”

Save the Children has called for Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza, for the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to provide basic services to the children of Gaza, and for the international community to react to the suffering caused by the blockade.

The UN reported in July 2017 that 47- unemployment rate, and around 80% of the population depends on humanitarian assistance.

In August 2017, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) reported the toll that electricity shortages took on children, especially babies.

Babies are cared for in overcrowded neo-natal intensive care units – a situation exacerbated by worsening maternal nutrition and increasing rates of premature and low birth-weight babies.

In one incident in August, neonatal nurses at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City were forced to provide care to 71 babies in a care unit designed for 43 babies. In this incident, the ratio of staff-to-babies was 1:7, much lower than the UK level of 1:1 or 1:2 during critical care. Faulty electricity backup generators mean nurses must often hand-ventilate babies for up to 50 minutes at a time until power is restored.

Please click here to donate to Save the Children’s emergency fund.

Jonathan Fenton-Harvey is a UK-based freelance journalist, with a special focus on the Middle East and North Africa, where he has travelled extensively. His work has been featured in the New Arab (Al Araby Al Jadeed English), Middle East Eye, Counterpunch and Tribune magazine (UK). He also studies history and politics at the University of Exeter.


GAZA: 1 million children suffering in ‘unlivable’ conditions

One million Palestinian children are living in dire and deteriorating conditions due to ongoing power shortages, with many celebrating Eid in the dark.

Save the Children briefing
September 04, 2017

· Gaza struggling with just two to four hours of electricity per day.
· More than 700 schools struggling to function without electricity.
· Breakdown of health and emergency services putting children’s lives at risk.
· Water-borne diseases increasing because of power shortages.
· Environmental disaster due to untreated sewage.
· Children unable to sleep, study or play.

One million children in Gaza are living in dire conditions. Many celebrated Eid in the dark without electricity. A UN report in 2012[1] said Gaza would be unlivable by 2020. Save the Children considers Gaza to be unlivable now.

Save the Children urges Israel to lift the Gaza blockade and for Palestinian and Israeli authorities to provide basic services to the residents of Gaza. the international community has failed to react to the suffering of Palestinian children in Gaza. A decade of isolation had reduced power available to households to just eight hours per day. Now families are lucky if they get two hours of electricity per day. Far too many get nothing at all.

The power shortages are also affecting Gaza’s already crippled infrastructure. The shortening or suspension of sewage treatment cycles has led to increased levels of pollution and contamination of groundwater sources and the Mediterranean Sea, leaving more than 60% of the sea around Gaza contaminated with untreated sewage and over 90% of water sources too contaminated for human consumption.

For Gaza’s children, the power shortages mean they’re unable to:
· Have access to limited health and emergency services, putting lives at risk.
· Access clean drinking water, due to non-functioning desalination plants.
· Take regular baths/showers, due to non-functioning water pumps.
· Sleep at night, due to the summer heat.
· Concentrate at school, due to lack of sleep.
· Complete homework or play outside, due to the dark.
· Eat fresh and healthy food, due to lack of refrigeration.

The situation is particularly bad for 15-year-old Ali* who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy. His mother Yara* said:

“My son is dying in front of my eyes. He can’t sleep most nights, and suffers from continuous pain. We don’t have enough power to get his electric wheelchair and mattress fully charged. If his wheelchair doesn’t get charged, he suffers psychologically, as he sees people around him move and walk but he can’t. He feels depressed and often fights with other children. When the wheelchair runs out of battery, Ali becomes totally paralysed.

“He also needs constant showers as he is wearing diapers, but there is no water. We don’t get water unless there is electricity. If I don’t change his diapers and wash him regularly he will suffer from skin rashes and other problems. We have not had any tap water for two days. I feel suffocated.”

Jennifer Moorehead, Country Director, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Save the Children, said:

“Sadly, the children of Gaza are caught in one of the most politicised conflicts in the world. The continued Israeli occupation and splits within the Palestinian leadership are making life unbearable. If you’re ten years old in Gaza you’ve already witnessed three massive and violent escalations of conflict.

“While politicians celebrate Eid and sleep in their air-conditioned homes, Gaza’s children are sweating in the stifling summer heat, unable to sleep, play or study. We shouldn’t have to be demanding such a basic service as electricity for the children of Gaza. A couple of hours of power a day is just not acceptable in 2017.

“Gaza’s children are already suffering through a ten-year blockade and the constant threat of conflict. Living without access to basic services like electricity is affecting their family life and mental well-being. We’re seeing increased levels of anxiety, aggression and mood swings.”

*names changed for security purposes.

For more information or to arrange an interview kindly contact:
Antonia Roupell: A.Roupell@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0) 7855 957 573
Press office: Media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 012 6841 / +44 (0) 7831 650 409 (out of hours)

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Context:

2017 marks 10 years of the air, sea and land blockade imposed by the Israeli government on the Gaza Strip.

Since 2007, two million Palestinians (including 1 million children) have been trapped in just 139 square miles, making the Gaza Strip one of the most densely populated places in the world. A report[2] from July 2017 by the UN Country Team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories outlines a worsening humanitarian crisis:

47% of the population of the Gaza Strip live under the poverty line and suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.

40% of the population is unemployed.

Approximately 80% of the population relies on humanitarian assistance.

47% of households fail to meet the international standard for food consumption.

Environmental crisis:

A UN report from 2012 said that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020[3] and many experts warn that Gaza has already reached that point.

96% of the groundwater is considered unfit for human consumption.

The shortening or suspension of sewage treatment cycles has led to increased pollution of the sea along Gaza’s coast, with over 108 million litres of untreated sewage discharged daily into the Mediterranean Sea, which is the equivalent to 40 Olympic-size swimming pools. This leaves over 60% of the sea contaminated with sewage.[4]

The Palestinian Water Authority and the United Nations have warned that its underground water aquifer may be completely contaminated by the end of the year, as it contains a large concentration of chloride, and the infiltration of untreated sewage has raised the levels of nitrates to two to eight times higher than the World Health Organization recommends.

The last environmental assessment of the Gaza Strip was conducted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2009, but successive UNEP environmental assessment missions have been denied entry by Israeli authorities.[5] A follow up assessment should therefore be conducted urgently.

Electricity crisis:

The situation in Gaza has further deteriorated following the intensification of its longstanding electricity deficit.

In April 2017, Gaza’s sole power plant (which, while not functioning at full capacity since its destruction in the 2009 war on Gaza, had provided one third of the Gaza Strip’s electricity) was forced to shut down after completely exhausting its fuel reserves as the operators were unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds.

In the Gaza Strip, families’ access to the power supply dropped by one third, from an average 182 megawatts (MW) in February 2017 to 127 MW in July 2017, and as little as 113 MW in mid-August 2017 which is the equivalent of an average of 2-4 hours of electricity per day. Egypt as a supplier has completely dropped out, so the Gaza Strip is relying on electricity from its power plant and Israel.[6]

SAVE THE CHILDREN’S REPONSE:

Child Protection:

Save the Children will distribute 800 family recreational kits, reaching a total of 2,400 vulnerable children aged 8-14 years.

Save the Children, through its child protection and education partners, will deliver 15 school and community-based recreational fun days with psychosocial activities in five United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)-run schools. Another 25 open days will be implemented in community-based facilities and public spaces, reaching a total of 17,500 children.

Save the Children, through its partners the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR) and the MA’AN news agency, will also organize stress release workshops, reaching a total of 3,000 parents.

Food Security & Livelihoods:
Save the Children will provide food e-vouchers for 700 families. The vouchers can also be used to buy LED lights, copper wires, batteries, and chargers.

Education:

Save the Children, together with its partner Save Youth Future Society (SYFS), will distribute a total of 20 school recreational kits to 20 UNRWA-run schools, to improve 20,000 school children’s posttraumatic stress wellbeing.

Save the Children will also conduct a two-day stress management workshop with 150 teachers from 15 UNRWA schools. These will help teachers develop resilience to cope with the pressures imposed on them during the current electricity crisis.

Save the Children will provide 1,500 children from 15 UNRWA schools who have learning difficulties with structured remedial and catch up classes in Arabic, English and maths.

Water, Sanitation & Hygiene:

Save the Children will supply and install 1500 litre Polyethylene household water tanks for 2,300 families in coordination with the Coastal Municipal Water Authority (CMWU) and local partners in Northern and Eastern parts of the Gaza Strip.

Save the Children will instal, supply and fix LED lighting systems for 200 poor families and in 100 kindergartens to overcome the electricity and power outage.

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