The kids ask: ‘Why do we suddenly have electricity?’

Shops in the Strip at night, June 2018. Photo by Gisha

Shops in the Strip at night, June 2018. Photo by Gisha

Fuel purchased with Qatari funding for Gaza’s only power plant has significantly increased Gaza’s power supply. After years of decreasing supply, much of the Gaza Strip now has electricity throughout the night. The power lasts at least eight hours, and blackouts are no longer than eight hours. Mohammed Azaiza, Gisha’s field coordinator, who lives with his wife and four children in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, describes life in conditions Gaza’s residents have already forgotten, and its young children have never known.

“Suddenly, we can do laundry. The machine can finish several wash cycles without the electricity stopping it in the middle. Before, we used to get up in the middle of the night to wash and iron the kids’ school uniforms. Now we can plan our day from morning until night.”

“And we have light in our fridge,” Mohammed says. “We made hummus at home that we knew we could keep refrigerated. We can buy cheese. We can bake. This week, my wife baked cheesecake. And you can watch soccer on TV. Everything is easier. Surfing the internet, charging the cell phone and laptop. It’s easier to take care of the children. When you have a baby, you need hot water all the time. Now we do.”

“For the kids, having electricity for ten straight hours is a whole new reality. They ask: ‘Why do we suddenly have electricity?’” Mohammed says. “Of course they’re happy and got used to it quickly, after three or four days. My wife is still apprehensive and asks, ‘When will the power go out?’”

The extra hours of electricity impact the entire social climate, Mohammed says. The street is lit. Businesses stay open in the evening. “Shops, restaurants and hotels don’t use generators as much now,” Mohammed continues. “It brings costs down and motivates them to stay open longer. Shops are open until 10 or 10:30pm.”

This new reality brought with it some tentative hope, before yet another escalation in hostilities, but the supply of power is likely to be short-lived. The 60 million dollar Qatari donation will be enough to run the plant’s three turbines for six months at best. The weather is currently mild, but increased demand once winter sets in will present a challenge of managing demand on the grid.

In Gaza, people are taking it one day at a time. In the meantime, Mohammed sums it up: “When you go out of the house at night and there’s light in the street, it makes you feel optimistic.”

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