This week: No cake in Gaza

Photo: stesciuba, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
November 8-14, 2013. Gaza bakeries to stop making cakes due to power shortage • Quality of sewage treatment deteriorates • The price of a ton of cement increases from 380 NIS to 1,300 NIS.

Power plant :
Gaza's power plant ceased operating on November 1, and power outages still last up to 16 hours per day. So far, there have been no reports of an agreement between the government in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority on the supply of industrial diesel for the plant. Gaza currently gets all of its electricity from Israel and Egypt – the electricity deficit remains at about 60%.

There are 14 government hospitals and 54 medical clinics in the Gaza Strip. The hospitals use large generators for all wards, and small generators for departments that require constant electricity (such as the ICU, dialysis treatment, cardiac units and neonatal ICU). In order to save diesel, wards that do not require a constant supply of electricity remain cut off during power outages.

Generators are designed to work for about eight hours. Running them for longer periods of time may reduce their capacity, causing a drop in electricity supply. This affects medical equipment such as dialysis machines, CT scanners, neonatal unit equipment and refrigerators used for storing drugs. Continuous use of generators also affects their operation, causing more malfunctions and increased maintenance costs. 

The Gaza Ministry of Health estimates that prior to the closing of the power plant hospitals and clinics used about 240,000 liters of diesel per month. With the station out of commission, the ministry estimates that the demand for diesel has reached 500,000 liters per month.

Tunnel activity remains almost completely paralyzed, with only minimal amounts of construction materials coming through. A limited quantity of diesel that entered via tunnels was transferred to government institutions, universities, hospitals and residential buildings. The government in Gaza supplies Egyptian diesel to bakeries to prevent them from having to raise the price of bread. However, bakery owners try to adjust their hours of operation to the electricity supply schedule. As a result, and in order to maintain the same production level, bakeries in Gaza have stopped making cakes, and currently produce only bread.

The price of Egyptian diesel has risen by 25% over the last three months and now costs 4 NIS per liter. However, Egyptian diesel still remains cheaper than Israeli diesel which costs 6.2 NIS per liter.
Palestinian sources estimate that Gaza's diesel reserves have been exhausted, and that the shortage has led to an increase in the amount of fuel entering from Israel via Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The Water Authority:
The security situation in the area near Rafah has led to a significant drop in voltage supplied by the Egyptian power grid in the vicinity. This has had an adverse affect on water supply in the area and on sewage treatment stations located there.

According to the Gaza Water Authority, the quality of sewage treatment in Gaza has deteriorated since the power plant stopped working, with some sewage now flowing into the sea and polluting beaches.
A quarter of Gaza's population, living in Gaza City, Rafah and Jabaliya now receives fresh water only once every four days, for six to eight hours at a time. This represents a 5% increase in the number of people who only receive water once every four days, compared to last month.

Rafah Crossing:
Rafah Crossing has been closed since Friday, November 8, 2013. In the last few days, registration for travel through Rafah has been renewed for passengers who meet the travel criteria: medical patients, individuals with foreign passport and residency status and Egyptian nationals.

Construction materials:
Construction materials continue to be blocked from entering Gaza via Israel for international organizations and the private sector. Construction materials designated for projects funded by the Qatari government continue to enter via Rafah Crossing. Since the beginning of November, an average of 31 truckloads of construction materials have entered via Rafah every day, compared to an average of 23 truckloads in October and 25 in September and August.

The shortage of construction materials in Gaza has led to a sharp rise in prices. A ton of cement now costs up to 1,300 NIS, compared to the normal price of NIS 380.