Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis Deepens: Palestinian Suffering Persists - Survival Is A Day To Day Struggle
08 December 2013
By Stephen Lendman
Israel's lawless siege caused Gazans unspeakable
misery. It shows no signs of ending. It got worse.
Around 1.8 million people are affected.
Mother nature wasn't kind. Once in a century storm
conditions exacerbated human misery. Fierce winds and
torrential rain battered the Strip. They began last
Wednesday. They continued into the weekend.
On Friday, things got worse. Gaza's Disaster Response
Committee said Israel opened nearby dams. Doing so
flooded numerous residential areas. Emergency
conditions were exacerbated.
Flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas.
Thousands fled homes too risky to remain in. Lack of
power and electricity as well as plunging temperatures
Displaced Gazans took shelter in schools and other
public buildings. Health Minister Mufid al-Mukhalalati
declared a state of "extreme emergency."
Ambulances and other emergency vehicles and crews were
put on high alert. Local Government Minister Muhammad
Farra told mayors to recall water and sanitation
workers on leave until crisis conditions end.
Alternating municipal crews worked round-the-clock.
UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness said UN staff keep
working all night.
One UNWRA member reported three meters of water
surrounding his house. During the height of the
crisis, emergency evacuations continued
Jebaliya refugee camp and surrounding areas resemble a
massive lake. Homes are engulfed. Thousands are
"After so many years of the Israeli blockade, the
public health system in Gaza was already acutely and
chronically damaged, so the man-made problems
inflicted on Gaza are compounded by the extreme
weather conditions," explained Gunness.
He urged Israel to lift its blockade immediately,
"Any normal community would struggle to recover from
"But a community that has been subjected to one of the
longest blockades in human history, whose public
health system has been destroyed and where the risk of
disease was already rife, must be freed from these man
made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural
calamity such as this."
High water levels forced Erez Crossing's closure.
Storm waters completely blocked it. Vehicles with sick
patients couldn't get through. They got stuck.
Israel's siege prevents normal daily life. Current
conditions make it impossible. Ezz al Zanoon lives in
"A friend of mine went out to get milk for his four
kids and had to go by boat," he said.
"In many areas, water flooded houses. Entire first
floors are flooded" in some.
"Civil forces are trying to help." They're doing their
best. "(T)here's no solution. I don't know how people
For days, electricity was available only for one or
two hours. People wait all night for it to come on.
Water availability depends on it. Pumping it needs
power. Gaza's sole power plant virtually shut down for
weeks. It did so before storm conditions erupted. It
did it for lack of fuel.
It supplies 30% of Strip needs. It hasn't operated
normally since November 1. Israel, the Palestinian
Authority and Egypt bear full responsibility.
On Sunday, Gazan officials said one generator began
operating. Another should follow, they said.
They expect around 60 megawatts of electricity to be
generated. Doing so will let the Gaza Electricity
Distribution Company (GEDCO) provide more power daily.
PA official Raed Fatuh is in charge of transferring
goods to Gaza. He said around 450,000 liters of fuel
were supplied on Sunday.
Much more is needed at affordable prices daily.
Whether it comes remains to be seen.
On Monday, Gaza medical services director Atef al-Kahlout
warned of "a complete breakdown in the health sector."
He believes exposure to sewage water and lack of
medical supplies risks an outbreak of serious
He called on nations worldwide to provide help. Gaza
needs food, fuel, warm clothing, medical supplies and
Storm winds and floods caused a pedestrian bridge to
collapse. It connected Gaza to Israel. It did so at
Flooding hit Gazan agriculture hard. Days of severe
weather caused devastating losses. Crops and livestock
About half the strawberry crop was heavily damaged.
Full agricultural loss estimates will follow once
better assessments can be made.
Coping with emergency conditions matters most. Imagine
trying for 1.8 million besieged people. Basim
Qahwaji's home was flooded like others.
"My seven children and their mother are now sleeping
in this classroom, without heating, adequate blankets,
mattresses or pillows," he said.
"We have been given only three mattresses and three
blankets and some food and water."
His wife, Warda Abu Taima, called conditions
"desperate. (W)e do not know what to do and how to
manage, given that my husband has some problems with
his back and is unable to work."
Conditions remain dire throughout large parts of Gaza.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported serious
deterioration in available medical supplies and
Generators powering hospitals experienced breakdowns.
In November. one or two European Gaza Hospital ones
Hamas spokesperson Isra Almodallal called conditions
disastrous. "With the lack of fuel and electricity,
the government is trying hard to help with limited
resources," she said.
"Unless the borders are reopened and the needed
equipment is allowed in, it will be difficult for us
to handle this crisis."
Ordinary Gazans explain things best. On Friday,
Mohammed Omer painted a nightmarish scenario. It makes
grim reading, saying:
"It is cold, there is no power, and I am charging my
computer using a car battery in order to get this
"It is so cold in Gaza that everyone has cold feet and
a cold nose. A new storm is hitting this besieged
"There is no electricity, and shortages of water,
fuel, and vital services mean people just sit and wait
for the unknown."
"The sewage system cannot function and Gaza
municipalities announced a state of emergency."
"Schools and most shops are shut, there is no traffic
and few people are walking in the street."
"We had no running water for the past two days - when
there is no fuel, water is not pumped regularly into
houses. The tank on our rooftop is empty. So we can't
even flush our toilet."
"Fuel cannot enter Gaza through the supply tunnels
recently shut down by Egypt's new government."
"As a result, Gaza's water-treatment plant is at
standstill, with raw sewage waist-deep in some streets
and flooding into Gazan homes, bringing with it rats
"Tonight, the smell of rotten sewage floods into my
nose. I inhale and exhale the stink of rotten garbage.
The night air is filled with this suffocating smell."
"It makes me wonder if US Secretary of State John
Kerry is aware of Gaza's situation."
"Would he find it acceptable if Israeli citizens lived
in the same conditions as Gazans? Or don't we in Gaza
count as humans?"
Gazan Fidaa Abuassi added:
Unlike neighboring Sderot, Israel, "Gaza's refugees
have nowhere to flee when heavy rains flood their
25-mile occupied territory, blockaded by land, air,
"Gaza is drowning today. You will see people kayaking
and canoeing - not the type of fun activities the
"Houses are flooded by water. People are freezing
there. No power. No water. No heat. No fuel. This is a
catastrophe. A CATASTROPHE."
"I need to do something to help. I felt so helpless
that I wanted to call 911, the Red Cross or Amnesty
"I want to tell the world that Gaza is living an
unspeakable disaster and in a bad need for your help.
I cannot be silent. You cannot be silent."
Medical aid for Palestinians (MAP) is a UK charity. It
works for their "health and dignity." On December 15,
it headlined "Gaza Underwater."
Fikr Shalltoot is MAP's Gaza program director. "We've
never seen anything like" what's ongoing, he said.
"There is real misery, and there simply isn't the
infrastructure to deal with the floods."
City streets look "life a port." Water borne diseases
are a major concern.
"The international community must bring effective
pressure to ensure an immediate end to the blockade.
It is the most vulnerable who are paying the price."
On Monday, the Palestine News Network headlined "Gaza
Suffers after Storm."
Estimated losses are around $64 million. Perhaps much
higher once better assessments are made. It's much
more than beleaguered Gazans can bear. About 40,000
people were displaced.
Storm damage affected thousands of homes, roads, other
infrastructure, water availability, electricity,
sanitation, healthcare, agriculture, private
businesses, and overall daily life.
Before today's crisis, the Organization of Islamic
Cooperation (OIC) called humanitarian conditions in
Medical supplies and equipment are in short supply.
Many vital medications aren't available.
Hundreds of patients needing specialized treatment
unavailable in Gaza can't cross into Egypt to get it.
Junta authority prevents or limits it.
Lack of fuel caused a drop in fishing. Up to 80% of
Gazan fishermen suffer temporary unemployment.
Around 90% of infrastructure projects are on
indefinite hold. About 20,000 Gazan construction
workers are out of work.
Over 12,000 Gazans can't rebuild homes destroyed by
Israeli land and air attacks. From July through
October, only three humanitarian convoys entered Gaza
through Rafah crossing. Egypt blocked more from
Clean water availability is dangerously low. Since
Egypt's military ousted Mohamed Morsi last July,
Gaza's economy suffered around $500 million in losses
through October. Tens of thousands of dollars more are
An estimated 57% of Gazan families suffer from
nutritional insecurity. Poverty and unemployment are
Nightmarish conditions affect Gaza. Storm conditions
deepened its humanitarian crisis. Months or longer may
be needed to resolve it.
Israel's lawless siege continues. Ending it matters
more than ever now. World leaders able to make a
difference continue turning a blind.
Palestinian suffering persists. Survival is a day to
day struggle. Liberation remains a distant dream.
Human suffering is a daily reality.
Stephen Lendman lives in
Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging
Financial War on Humanity." http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen
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