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send to friend print, with Gazans without electricity - 2008-03-01

At times when nations compete to provide the latest technological comfort marvels in their homes, people in Gaza wage their own war to receive the minimum electricity needed for life’s absolute necessities.
It was not easy to imagine the size of the tragedy in Gaza due to cutting off water, oil, and electricity. In Gaza, life goes back to centuries we thought have long gone. However, with the Israeli occupation nothing would be too inhuman. correspondent filed this report from Gaza:

Maher Alasali is a Palestinian boy who lives in a difficult medical condition. Having been paralyzed after a car accident seven years ago, Maher’s life has been difficult due to his medical condition, but the last few months have been especially painful. Because of his paralysis, Maher lives with the aid of an artificial breathing device that needs electricity to function. He lives under the constant threat of sudden death due to a device malfunction, or, no electricity. His life depends on electricity, literally.

During the electricity cutoffs, family members take turns to manually pump air through a tube into his lungs. “I am scared,..” says Maher, “I could suffocate and die if electricity stops any time.”

Um Muhammad Alsharif, another Gazan who lives with an asthmatic husband. She carries a cardboard piece to push air in his direction. She says last week her husband had a close call. While electricity was off, her husband had seizure.

Mass execution:

Difficult as it may be, patients lives are especially more so because all of them depend on availability of electricity for their survival. Ministry of Health spokesman Khalid Radi said that cutting off electricity is tantamount to an order of mass execution, because it affects patients more than any other sectors of the Palestinian society, especially that of babies who are in incubators. Mr. Radi further clarifies that cutting off electricity means stopping such equipment as x-ray machines, waste management, and operation rooms.

Mr. Radi spoke of the damage sustained by hospital equipment and generators due to repeatedly cutting off electricity because hospital generators are not designed for 24-hour operation. He added that about 4% of Gaza residents suffer from Asthma and other breathing difficulties and that they need medical equipment in their homes that operate on electricity. In addition, the Ministry spokesman said that people who suffer from paralysis are under the immediate threat of death due to electricity cut-offs.

Living in pain:

Life has become a daily struggle in the city, the village, and most certainly in the camps. Um Shadi, a resident of the Shati’ refugee camp summarizes her electricity troubles, she says : “I used to wash our clothes every other day. For two weeks now, I have not been able to wash my children’s clothes. Even when the electricity is back for short periods, there is not water to wash with because of the high demand. I use the brief periods to make bread on my electric oven. It’s a constant rush to put bread on the table.” She adds, “You can’t imagine how terrified I am whenever I cannot finish a load of bread,” presumably she does not want to waste a precious commodity, the dough.

Um Shadi tells another story of suffering in winter. She says that her family's home is not heated and that everyone wears and sleeps in multiple layers of clothing for warmth. When her husband or children need to pray, they sometimes use the gas burner to heat otherwise frozen water. Another precious commodity wasted due to lack of cooking gas, she said.

Children, deprivation of everything

In the living room sat Abdullah, Ismael, and their friend playing in the dark. A small candle is lit. Abdullah says that he is on a school break, and he can not leave his home during the day because of the cold weather. At home, he can not watch TV or play video games like his peers because of electricity cutoffs. Ismael, meanwhile, griped about not being able to watch cartoons. He says that even during the brief times when electricity is back up, his father watches the news. He agonized over his sister who is in high school now and can not study in her last critical school year. She is due to take the final matriculation exam, which will determine her eligibility to go to college

Constant worries

Dr. Nimmer Abu Zarqah, a specialist in the mental health program in Gaza, speaks of the constant worries electricity cutoffs causes the residents. He says that electricity cutoffs adds to other worries residents already have like lack of commodities due to the siege and closures. He adds that electricity fluctuations add to the worries of parents causing instability within the family reflected in their relationship with the children.

Dr. Zarqah added that family worries usually passed on to the community as a whole. People become less patient, intractable, and frequently hostile. All of this in the name of Israel’s policy of collective punishment.

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