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Gaza Situation Update
Gaza Visit 22-24 May 2017

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01 Jun 2017 By Sami El-Yousef

The new norm in Gaza?
While on my visit to Gaza, I was shocked at how severe the shortage of electricity is now — a mere 3 hours of power per day. According to locals I spoke with, housewives complain about the daily power outages which hampers life; the lack of power prevents the use of the washing machine or the refrigerator which forces the family to buy groceries every day. The smell of sewage has also become a norm practically everywhere you go in Gaza.

Gaza’s sewage treatment plant no longer works due to the electricity crisis and thus raw sewage is merely dumped in the sea. Untreated sewage has also infiltrated Gaza’s natural aquifer along with saltwater from the sea and chemical run-off, and given the demands of the population, there is a severe water shortage as a result.

During my visit and to my surprise, there were minimal number of cars and people on the streets. I was informed that this was mainly due to the recent decision by the PNA in Ramallah to reduce the salaries of some 70,000 public servants; in a few months’ time their salaries will be cut completely. Many employees have gone to the banks to withdraw money from their accounts only to find that the accounts are either frozen or in the minus from the lack of payment on their bank loans. Many people are unable to afford anything nor fill their cars with gas. In addition, there is a new restriction on the private consumption of diesel fuel, with a limitation of up to 50 NIS (Shekels) (app. 7 liters) per person. A combination of problems: the reduction of electricity and diesel consumption; a 40 percent unemployment rate; and the cut of public servants’ income has increased crime and theft in Gaza and locals are fearful for their personal safety. I suppose the only positive factor I witnessed was the availability of building supplies including cement and iron rods (for building construction) that has been allowed through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The question is: who can afford to purchase these building supplies with so many limitations on basic needs like electricity, fuel, clean water and a decent wage? In fact, during my previous visit about two months ago, people expected a new war with Israel and fretted how devastating it would be. Now, people expressed concern about having access to basic needs to survive. I suppose the predictions highlighted in the UN report in August 2012 “Gaza in 2020 — A liveable place?” may become a reality sooner than expected given that there are no real efforts to change the ‘status quo’ in Gaza. Despite this, one still must be optimistic and carry forth so that hope is not truly lost.

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