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One million children suffering in ‘unlivable’ conditions in Gaza

29th Sep 2017
One million children suffering in ‘unlivable’ conditions in Gaza

(Photo: Muslim News/Ahmed J Versi)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Save the Children has called on the Israeli Government to lift its decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip. The NGO says one million children in Gaza are enduring “unlivable” conditions amid widespread power cuts.

Blackouts mean untreated sewage and water-borne diseases are a growing problem, with families “lucky” to get two hours of electricity per day, Save the Children said.

In April, Gaza’s only power plant (which, while not functioning at full capacity since its destruction in the 2009 war on Gaza, had provided one-third of the Gaza Strip’s electricity) was forced to shut down after using up all its fuel reserves.

Families’ access to the power supply dropped by one-third, from an average 182 megawatts (MW) in February to 127 in July, and as little as 113 in mid-August, the equivalent of an average of 2-4 hours of electricity per day. Egypt as a supplier has completely dropped out, so the Gaza Strip is relying on electricity from its power plant and Israel.

One mother, Yara said her 15-year-old son Ali, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was “dying in front of my eyes”.

She said: “He can’t sleep most nights and suffers from continuous pain. We don’t have enough power to get his electric wheelchair and mattress fully charged. When the wheelchair runs out of battery, Ali becomes totally paralysed. We have not had any tap water for two days. I feel suffocated.”

Sewage treatment disruption means around 90 percent of water sources are unfit for humans to drink, the charity said, adding that some 108 million litres of raw waste is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea around the enclave every day, the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools. This leaves over 60 percent of the sea contaminated with sewage.

“A couple of hours of power a day is just not acceptable in 2017.”

Since 2007, two million people have lived inside 139 square miles, making Gaza one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Around eight in 10 people there rely on humanitarian help, the charity said.

Israel has launched three offensives on Gaza since 2008, in which thousands of Palestinians were killed. Severe damage to Gaza’s already weak infrastructure has contributed to the current humanitarian crisis.

Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said in a statement: “Gaza children are already suffering through a ten-year blockade and the constant threat of conflict, living without access to basic services like electricity is affecting their family life and mental well-being, we’re seeing increased levels of anxiety, aggression and mood swings.”

According to a UN report, living conditions in Gaza are worsening with 47 percent of people in Gaza live under the poverty line and suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity. 40 percent of the population is unemployed, 80 percent of the population relies on humanitarian assistance and 47 percent of households fail to meet the international standard for food consumption.

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