Gaza strip faces scorching heat amid severe power shortages
A heatwave in the Gaza Strip with temperatures reaching 38°C has worsened power outages and sparked calls for protests from residents who lack electricity for cooling.
“We haven’t witnessed such heat in years, and we get electricity for around six hours a day,” Yasmin Fojo, a mother of five from the Nahrelbared camp in southern Gaza, told Reuters. “I can’t fan my children, so I am using the plastic tray to fan them because of the severe heat.”
The more than 2.3 million people living in Gaza need around 500 megawatts of power daily in the summer. But the area only has access to 120 megawatts supplied by Israel and another 60 megawatts from the strip’s sole power plant.
For more than a decade, Gaza’s limited electricity supply has caused chronic shortages that leave residents without power for 10 to 17 hours each day. As temperatures rise and more air conditioners are switched on, power supply lags and the duration of blackouts increases.
The power shortages affect daily life, impeding essential services like healthcare, water and sanitation services, manufacturing, and agriculture. One study found that 92% of citizens feel the shortages have negative effects on their mental health, while 82% are unable to refrigerate food, says the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.
“The crisis has provoked an unusual wave of social media protests,” reports Reuters. “Gaza residents are calling for the local generator to produce more power by operating the plant at full capacity.”
Residents have also been sharing videos of darkness at night and of their children sleeping on the floor to cool themselves. Some have called for street protests and demand action from Hamas, the group that has controlled the Strip since 2007.
But Hamas says Gaza’s economy has been undermined by a 16-year Israeli blockade, which has also undermined its power network.
Jalal Ismail, Hamas-appointed chair of the Gaza Energy Authority, called the shortage a political issue, resulting from divisions with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian Authority, which pays for the electricity feed from Israel, in turn blames the crisis on Hamas, which it says is responsible for collecting electricity revenues, writes Reuters.
Though some residents and businesses have supplementary power from solar panels and generators, those who cannot afford these options are left with battery-powered LED lights—and must find alternate ways to avoid the heat.
“I don’t have money to buy a fan and if I did they would cut off the power and I end up in the heat, therefore I am using those plastic trays,” said one 90-year-old woman, Um Khattab Dula.
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