Sunday, September 10, 2006

Powerless in Gaza

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

"For the past two months, Gaza residents like Aqdeir have lived without a regular supply of electricity after the Israeli military bombed Gaza’s only power station on 28 June.

More than 226 Palestinians, many civilians, have been killed in air raids and ground assaults since then, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

With a crippled infrastructure and low and unreliable power and water supplies, Gaza’s 1.4 million citizens face a daily struggle to survive.

Gaza’s power station, which is privately owned by an American firm and Palestinian investors, is run by the Gaza Power Generating Company (GPGC). Before the bombing, it provided 140 megawatts of electricity, or just over half of Gaza’s power needs.

The lack of electricity means sewage cannot be treated, increasing the risk of disease spreading, and hospitals cannot function normally. It means ordinary Gazans cannot keep perishable food because their fridges do not work.

At night, they are plunged into complete darkness when the electricity cuts off. They rely on candles and paraffin lamps.

Many residents have also been left with an irregular water supply as they need electricity to pump water up from nearby wells or from ground floor level to higher floors in blocks of flats.

The United Nations has called for an inquiry into Israel’s strike on the power plant, which it said exacerbated an already critical health situation and may be a breach of international humanitarian law.

“The destruction of Gaza's electricity power station is profoundly inconsistent with the health and safety of all civilians living in Gaza, especially the young, sick, infirm and elderly, as well as their right to the highest attainable standard of health, enshrined in the International Bill of Rights and other international human rights instruments,” said Paul Hunt, the UN Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health."

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