Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government and the international community to apply diplomatic pressure to end an electricity crisis in Gaza that is plunging the entire population deeper into poverty.
Dramatic restrictions on electricity are cutting off people’s access to basic services such as water and sanitation.
Oxfam Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel Country Director Chris Eijkemans said Israel had cut electricity supplies to Gaza by 40 per cent, at the request of the Palestinian National Authority (PA). This has seen supply drop to as little as two hours per day.
He said the crisis was worse than the impact of the 50-day conflict in Gaza that ended three years ago this week.
“The electricity must be restored in order to relieve an already trapped population, which is now seriously threatened by risk of widespread disease given there are few functioning services,” Mr Eijkemans said.
“After the 2014 Gaza War, 50 per cent of the sewage treatment centers were no longer operating. Today, none are.
“In August 2014, 900,000 people lacked proper water and sanitation facilitates; today that number is 2 million. Then, 80 per cent of the population received four hours of electricity per day. Today, many people in Gaza are living on as little as two hours per day.”
He said that since the bombing of Gaza’s sole power plant in 2006 by Israel, electricity supply was already unacceptably low, with households and businesses receiving as little as eight hours a day. This was exacerbated by the land, sea and air blockade, now in its 11th year.
All of Oxfam’s humanitarian and development projects in Gaza have been affected by the lack of available power, including water and sanitation, agriculture and economic development programs.
“Gaza desalination plant rehabilitation projects have ground to a halt,” he said. “Fishermen cannot store their catch, farmers cannot irrigate their crops and technology projects are missing deadlines and opportunities, and have been forced to make staff cuts. The economic, development and humanitarian costs are staggering.
“The Gaza electricity crisis is an immoral, punitive measure against an entire population and must end immediately. The Palestinian Authority, the de-facto authorities in Gaza, and Israel all share responsibility for the well-being of Palestinians living in Gaza and must not use them as a bargaining chip in this political dispute.
“All must act to urgently resume fuel and electricity supply to Gaza.”
Oxfam Australia Humanitarian Advocacy Advisor Rebecca Barber said the effects were far reaching.
“An Australian aid funded agricultural project, connecting Palestinian farmers to domestic and international markets, will be affected. For example, electricity is required for irrigation pumps and cold storage,” Ms Barber said.
“There has been a 60 per cent cut in irrigation in Gaza since before the electricity cuts.
“Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government to put diplomatic pressure on all sides to restore power to Gaza and end this terrible humanitarian crisis.”
Oxfam has today joined a social media campaign in partnership with Palestinian digital agencies to show solidarity with people in Gaza, urging that the power be turned back on.
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