Gaza: Drowning in Sewage and Living in Darkness

Gaza is on the verge of imminent collapse. According to a report by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, 65 percent of the nearly two million people living in Gaza suffer from abject poverty, 72 percent are food-insecure, 80 percent have become dependent on international aid and 42 percent were unemployed as of 2016.

Electricity is in shorter supply than ever before, with those in Gaza being able to access less than two hours of power each day, if at all.

Most water is now undrinkable, as years of infrastructure decay and power cuts have led to the deterioration of Gaza’s rudimentary sewage treatment system. Raw sewage is being dumped into the sea to prevent the cities from flooding and strict border closures have left patients seeking life-saving medical care to languish after having been denied transfers out of Gaza. Many children work full-time to help support their impoverished families and struggle to receive an education regularly. Most schools that were destroyed or damaged during the 2014 war remain out of service due to Israel’s restriction on importing raw materials, such as concrete.

A 2012 UN report predicted that Gaza would become “uninhabitable” by 2020 if current economic trends persisted.  Since then, the crisis in Gaza has only intensified and 2020 is now less than three years away.

class="quote__text" style="text-align: center">“There can be no justification for denying humanitarian supplies, adequate water and electricity to an entire population for 10 years”
– Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International

There is no one culprit responsible for the horrendous situation in Gaza. After Israel withdrew its army and dismantled the Gaza Strip settlements in 2005, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative election. Due to its designation as a terrorist organization, Hamas’s win triggered a wave of economic sanctions and international aid suspensions from Israel and the United States against the Fatah-controlled Palestinian National Authority (PA) and the Palestinian territories. In March 2007, after negotiation in Mecca, Hamas and Fatah formed the short-lived Palestinian authority national unity government. However, three months later, the Battle of Gaza resulted in the division of the Palestinian territories into the West Bank governed by the PA, and the Gaza Strip governed by Hamas. Following the battle, Egypt and Israel began the process of sealing their border crossings with Gaza – claiming that since the PA had fled the area, the borders were not secure.

class="story-body-text story-content" style="text-align: center">“The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this long-standing internal Palestinian dispute.”
– Robert Piper, UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied territories

Since then, disputes between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian National Authority have fed a land, air and sea blockade which has lasted for over 10 years and left Gaza completely isolated and suffering far more than ever before. Israel maintains that the blockade on their side is necessary to limit rocket attacks coming from in the Gaza Strip and also to prevent Hamas from obtaining more weaponry. On the other hand, Egypt has asserted that opening the border on their side would only serve as an implicit recognition of Hamas’ control over Gaza, thereby undermining the legitimacy of the Palestinian National Authority and deepening the rift between the two groups.

class="story-body-text story-content" style="text-align: center">“I really wish it was a nightmare… I really wish that I could wake up to a different reality.”
– Fedaa Al Ghussain, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s advocacy officer in Gaza

All this has left the two million Palestinian civilians living in the Gaza Strip feeling like no one represents their interests. After three wars, a decade-long blockade which cut them off from the rest of the world and ever-increasing international apathy, it is only a matter of time before the environment in Gaza becomes explosive once more.