Punishing years under siege,
Cast Lead's devastation, and regular IDF air, land and sea attacks took
a terrible toll on Gazans physically, economically and emotionally.
In 2010, Doctors Without Borders (Medicine Sans Frontiers) said over
half of children under age 12 need mental health help. Moreover, one-third
of cases are severe.
Gaza Community Mental Health Program PR Director Husam El Nounou blamed
crisis conditions on closure and regular Israeli attacks. Begun in 1993,
it stiffened markedly after the second Intifada began.
Following Hamas' January 2006 legislative victory, harsher people traffic
and goods restrictions were imposed. In June 2007, siege compounded
partial isolation. As a result, hopelessness, virtual imprisonment,
and regular Israeli attacks affect all Gazans, especially young children
According to Husam:
"The effect is most felt by those who are in greatest need of travel
such as students studying abroad, the sick requiring medical attention
unavailable in Gaza, and people whose work requires them to travel or
trade in exports and imports."
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls the link between physical
and mental health well documented. Closure caused food shortages. Nutritional
deficiencies and poor physical health resulted. In combination with
inadequate healthcare and other deprivation, emotional problems developed.
Without imports and spare parts, sanitation facilities can't operate
properly. According to a Gaza Mental Health Community Program study,
mental health outcomes deteriorated markedly in the past five years.
Depression increased 17.7%, and 95% of those surveyed felt imprisoned.
Cast Lead and regular Israeli attacks heighten crisis conditions. Over
82% of Gazan children felt endangered during Cast Lead. Two-thirds fear
more war, and over 40% want revenge.
Other research found similar results. Islamic University in Gaza's Jameel
Tahrawi analyzed children's drawings. He found over 82% related to Cast
Lead. A comparable UN study found two-thirds of respondents experienced
worse health outcomes since the war. In most cases, it's emotionally
According to Husam, "(w)omen especially tend to bury mental health problems
as they may reduce chances of marriage."
In contrast, men become more violent. Women and children bear the brunt.
Children are less attentive in school. Their educational outcomes and
later life opportunities suffer. Feelings of entrapment result.
Isolation prevents overseas study to develop professional mental health
skills. To compensate, the Gaza Mental Health Program began a post graduate
mental health intervention course to train practitioners.
Nonetheless, conditions remain critical and won't improve until siege
conditions and Israeli attacks end.
A Final Comment
In mid-February, a power crisis gripped Gaza. Out of fuel, the Strip's
power plant can't operate properly. Protracted outages occurred. An
acute fuel shortage exists. Vital services can't function. Drinking
water, health and sanitation facilities are affected.
On February 14, the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company shut down
operations. Around two-thirds of Gaza was affected. Citing unprecedented
challenges, the company said severe complications restricts daily electricity
distribution to six hours daily, followed by 18 hour outages.
Gaza's Health Ministry declared a state of emergency. Hospital generators
lack enough fuel to operate properly.
Health Ministry's General Supplies Stores director Bassam Barhoum said
long outages combined with acute fuel shortages affect the entire Strip.
The deficit's 72%. The toll on hospitals and other healthcare facilities
According to Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra, over 80% of
patients face deteriorating health conditions. He also warned disaster
may affect all patients in vital hospital department whose treatment
depends on dependable electricity supplies.
Those most affected include premature incubator babies, patients suffering
renal failure, those requiring intensive care, and others needing surgery
and emergency treatment. In fact, many departments face total paralysis
if crisis conditions don't end soon.
The Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU) warned it's unable to
supply water in proper amounts. It said despite efforts to operate wells
and pumping plants, it's impossible to do so properly under current
Gaza's Palestinian Energy Authority blamed lack of fuel on measures
to prevent delivery. Israel used to supply industrial fuel. Frequent
border crossing closures, denial of regular supplies, and high prices
got the Palestinian Energy Authority to stop Israeli imports in January
Instead, it relies on Egyptian supplies. Much comes smuggled through
tunnels. Egypt agreed to supply more. On February 20, limited amounts
arrived. Egyptian authorities pledged much more and would begin pumping
500,000 liters daily followed by another 100,000 for gas stations within
They also pledged to increase electricity supplies to 22 megawatts from
17 megawatts supplied free. Moreover, a deal struck with Egypt will
increase electricity flows to 62 megawatts within two to four months.
In addition, emergency diesel will be provided. Egypt's electricity
and power minister Hassan Younes said "(t)he increase comes in the framework
of a quick attempt to relieve the suffering of the Palestinian people."
Regular shipments will arrive by truck through Israeli controlled Kerem
Shalom crossing. Hamas fears it will restrict supplies to inflict punishment.
Gaza's Energy Authority director Omar Katana hopes crisis condition
will be resolved shortly. Egypt agreed to help. A joint Egyptian-Palestinian
committee was formed to examine best ways to deliver fuel through "official
Various power routes are being considered. In addition, expanding power
line capacity and rehabilitating Gaza's power plant take on urgency.
Meanwhile, crisis conditions still exist. Operating normally under siege
is impossible. Israel's closure prevents imports of vital equipment
and spare parts needed for maintenance and upgrades.
At full capacity, Gaza's power plant produces 80 megawatts of electricity.
Katana hopes planned cross border transmission capability increases
will boost it to 300 megawatts.
Costing $50 million, it requires 18 months or longer to "resolve the
Gaza problem once in for all" provided Israel doesn't wage war and destroy
Earlier Gaza Blackouts
Following Gilad Shalit's June 2006 capture, Israel bombed Gaza's power
plant, destroying its transformers. The damage was never fully repaired.
Current capacity combined with purchased electricity supplies only 62%
of Gaza's needs.
In October 2007, Israel restricted fuel transfers, including industrial
diesel for Gaza's power plant. After months of shortages and outages,
supplies came through tunnels at lower prices.
In 2010, after EU diesel fuel payments stopped, Hamas bought supplies
from Egypt. However, no formal agreement was reached. So Egypt can cut
or stop supplies if it wishes.
Moreover, Fatah and Hamas dispute responsibility for Gaza's energy.
Agreed reconciliation didn't resolve it. In addition, tunnel supplied
fuel is cheaper than other supplies. Moreover, Israel controls three
border crossings, including for fuel. Kerem Shalom isn't designed for
its transfer and has limited capacity.
If Fatah and Hamas can resolve differences and Israel doesn't impose
punitive restrictions, these obstacles can be overcome. At issue is
will all sides cooperate for the welfare of 1.7 million Gazans?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com.
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