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Senior UN relief official urges immediate action to resolve Gaza power crisis

Electrical power transmission lines in Gaza City.
World Bank/Natalia Cieslik (file)
Electrical power transmission lines in Gaza City.

Senior UN relief official urges immediate action to resolve Gaza power crisis

A senior United Nations humanitarian official has voiced his concern about the shutdown of Gaza’s main power plant earlier today due to a critical fuel shortage, and warned of its impact on the already vulnerable 1.7 million residents living in the Strip.

“In recent years, Gaza has been running on less than half of the electricity that it needs. The shutdown of the power plant today and related fuel shortages will impact all essential services, including hospitals, clinics, sewage and water pumping stations,” said Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley.

“It will also mean that Gaza’s 1.7 million people will experience power outages of up to 16 hours per day,” he warned in a news release.

Electricity is supplied through Israeli and Egyptian feeder lines but the Gaza Power Plant provides approximately 30 per cent of Gaza’s total energy supply.

“For the benefit of Gaza’s civilian population it is essential that a way be found to allow the power plant to resume its operations and that the broader chronic energy crisis be addressed,” Mr. Rawley stressed.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) also highlighted the seriousness of the shutdown and its impact on an already vulnerable population.

“The shutting down of the Gaza power station will have serious consequences on the humanitarian situation in the Strip, which is already suffering from serious damage to the sanitation plants,” spokesperson Adnan Abu Hasna said in an interview with UN Radio.

He stressed the need to find an urgent solution, warning that failure to do so would only add to the suffering of the residents of Gaza.

In addition, he said that UNRWA – which provides assistance and protection for some five million registered Palestine refugees across the occupied Palestinian territories – does not have the financial capability to help alleviate the problem.

“We in UNRWA are suffering from large budget deficits, and the fuel we get is for UNRWA’s facilities and vehicles,” said Mr. Abu Hasna. “We do not have now the possibility to provide the various sectors in Gaza with fuel, as we did in 2009, when our emergency programme funds were available.”