Occupied Palestinian Territory: Gaza fuel crisis (OCHA Situation Report) ~ EWASH [Emergency Water Sanitation and Hygiene in the occupied Palestinian territory].
26 November, 2013
Gaza is affected by one the most serious energy crises in recent years, with potentially serious humanitarian ramifications.
Since1 November, following the shutdown of the Gaza Power Plant as a result of a lack of fuel, households are experiencing power outages of up to 16 hours per day.
The operation of all 291 water and wastewater facilities has been affected, leading to sewage spills of tens of thousands of cubic meters in various locations, including in a residential area of Gaza City.
Shortages of affordable fuel used to operate backup generators have severely disrupted the normal functioning of critical hospital functions, such as emergency rooms, operating theatres, and neo-natal care.
While immediate mitigating measures are being sought to support the most critical functions, medium and longer-term solutions are urgently needed to avoid even greater humanitarian risks and improve the living conditions of average households.
Measures adopted by the Egyptian authorities since June 2013 in the context of military operations in the Sinai, have resulted in an almost total halt in the smuggling of goods into Gaza via the illegal tunnels. This has triggered a severe fuel shortage. In recent years, the smuggling tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt became the main source for the supply of fuel to the Gaza Strip, due to the lower cost of Egyptian fuel, which is subsidized by the Egyptian government, compared to the Israeli fuel. This has been reinforced by the lack of an agreed mechanism between the Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza allowing the purchase of fuel from other sources, including Israel. The current fuel crisis has compounded an already fragile humanitarian situation generated by the longstanding Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods to, from and within the Gaza Strip, as well as by the recent Egyptian restrictions on the movement of passengers via the Rafah Crossing. It is estimated that in November, less than 20,000 liters of fuel per week entered Gaza via the tunnels, compared to nearly 1 million liters per day until June 2013. The Gaza Power Plant (GPP), which until recently supplied 30 percent of the electricity available in Gaza, has been exclusively dependent on Egyptian diesel smuggled through the tunnels, since early 2011. On 1 November, after depleting its fuel reserves, the GPP was forced to shut down triggering power outages of up to 16 hours per day, up from 8-12 hours prior to that.
Humanitarian needs and response
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
There is an acute shortage of fuel to power standby generators at 291 WASH facilities across Gaza, including water wells, ground tank pumps, booster stations, desalination plants, sewage pump stations and wastewater treatment plants.
This has resulted in reduced water supply to households. Only 15 percent of the population is supplied every day, while 25 percent are supplied once every four days, 40 percent once every three days, and 20 percent every two days; supply cycles last 5-6 hours. Additionally, there has been a 75 percent drop in the volume of water produced by 25 desalination units operated by the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU), which supplies approximately 160,000 people. This has forced the latter to purchase water from unregulated water vendors and distributors, raising concerns over quality of purchased water.
The failure and increasing inability to operate generators have also resulted in flooding from sewage pumping, and the release of 90 million liters of untreated wastewater into the sea every day. In addition to the flood of sewage in Gaza City, there have been at least ten incidents, where sewage pumping stations were unable to pump to their respective treatment plants and were forced to divert sewage to open channels, the sea or storm water lagoons. The increasing dependence on backup generators, due to the longer electricity outages, has augmented the need for their maintenance at all WASH facilities. However, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) and the municipalities have expressed concern about their ability to meet the growing maintenance needs due the irregular supply of spare parts, as well as the shortage of basic building materials (cement, gravel and steel bars) needed to repair WASH infrastructure. The lack of fuel to run trucks has also disrupted the collection of solid waste from the streets.
The lack of fuel and other essential items comes at a time where the systems in Gaza are already fragile due to years of blockade and closure and there is limited capacity of service providers to be able to respond to the onset of similar shocks.
– The Government of Turkey has pledged funds to purchase 280,000 liters of fuel to run essential WASH facilities for four months (another 240,000 liters were pledged by Turkey to the health and solid waste sectors).
– The first installment of the Turkish-funded fuel, consisting of 10,000 litres, is being distributed by UNRWA to a number of sewage treatment facilities.
– The Emergency Relief Fund (ERF) approved a project submitted by UNICEF on behalf of the WASH cluster to fund the purchase of 210,000 liters of fuel to support the operation of the most critical water and sewage facilities during five months.
– In the absence of electricity supply from the GPP, Gaza’s WASH facilities require approximately 400,000 liters of fuel per month to run backup generators and maintain a minimum level of operations.
– Additional funding is urgently required for the purchase of spare parts and engine oil for the maintenance of generators.
– Additional human resources, as well as fuel to run trucks, are required to clean areas affected by sewage overflow.
– Construction materials are needed to reinforce the embankments of waste water treatment plants.
– Public awareness campaigns addressing the health hazards of sewage overflows are also required.
The EWASH Advocacy Task Force is a sub-committee of the Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Group (EWASH). EWASH members include local and international NGOs and UN Agencies. The EWASH Advocacy Task Force coordinates messaging among EWASH members to raise awareness of the water, sanitation and hygiene situation in the occupied Palestinian territory at local, national and international levels so that tangible improvements to the lives of Palestinians are realised.
| #Gaza strip will be uninhabitable by 2020, UN report: http://bit.ly/1aA56EV
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