The high cost of keeping Gaza under siege

Palestinians carry posters declaring that refugee rights are a responsibility, not a gift, and that services must be continued until refugees are allowed to return to their lands of origin.

Mohammed Zaanoun ActiveStills

Funds to procure emergency fuel used to sustain essential services in Gaza have depleted and final stocks will be delivered this week, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.

Gaza’s health ministry said on Tuesday that the fuel crisis had reached its worst phase yet, and that government-run hospitals had enough supply for only a further 10 days to three weeks, depending on the institution.

Donor-funded emergency fuel has become a lifeline in Gaza after 11 years of an Israeli blockade that has deflated the territory’s economy and sharply increased residents’ dependence on humanitarian aid. A chronic energy crisis resulting from the siege means Gaza households receive only four to five hours of electricity per day.

“If new funds are not received immediately, we will be facing a potentially catastrophic breakdown in essential service delivery,” UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick stated.

“Services provided at hospitals, clinics, as well as sewage treatment, water and sanitation facilities will cease.”

Nearly 5,000 medical patients in Gaza depend on a constant supply of electricity, including some 300 people connected to medical devices such as ventilators, dialysis machines and incubators.

Disruption or electricity outages put such patients “at immediate risk of brain damage or death,” according to McGoldrick’s office.

Managed crisis

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is a managed crisis with no political resolution on the horizon.

Similar warnings of imminent disaster by McGoldrick and other officials have been made again and again and again.

In 2015 the UN forecasted that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable by the year 2020 following years of blockade and successive Israeli military assaults.

Two years later the UN said that threshold had already passed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned last year that Gaza was on the verge of “systemic collapse.”

Gaza has been repeatedly brought to the brink before a stop-gap aid contribution prevents total catastrophe.

Meanwhile, socioeconomic conditions continue to deteriorate and Gaza’s long-suffering residents are plunged further into despair.

Humanitarian agencies have found it increasingly difficult to find the funding needed to prevent disaster from befalling Gaza’s population of two million.

Last month the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated that funding for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip was critically low.

Only a quarter of the nearly $540 million requested as part of a humanitarian response plan for 2018 had been funded as of the end of July.

OCHA said that after Israel’s military assault on Gaza in 2014 – after which third-party states pledged $3.5 billion to rebuild the devastated territory – “humanitarian financing to the occupied Palestinian territory has been gradually, but definitively, decreasing year on year.”

US cuts off millions in aid to Palestinians

A decision made by the US to cut off $300 million in aid to UNRWA, the single largest humanitarian body working in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has been a major contributing factor to the overall drop in funding.

Last month the US announced that it would stop funding the UN agency for Palestine refugees altogether and cut $200 million more in bilateral aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

The amount cut by the Trump administration represents most of the $250 million in aid requested annually by the State Department for 2018 and 2019.

President Trump recently signed a defense bill codifying into law a pledge made by his predecessor to give Israel $38 billion in military assistance over 10 years.

UNRWA has been scrambling to secure additional funds from states such as the UK and Japan as it seeks to fill a shortfall of $270 million in its budget of $1.2 billion.

The Trump administration asserts that the agency perpetuates the Palestinian refugee issue through an “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries.”

The agency has pushed back against those claims.

“There is only one thing that perpetuates the situation of refugees, including Palestinian refugees, and that is the extraordinary failure of the international community to bring about a just and fair and inclusive solution to the conflict,” UNRWA commissioner general Pierre Krähenbühl told The Washington Post.

The same goes for Gaza’s manmade crisis of Israeli design, encouraged by the total lack of political will by third-party states to take meaningful action to end the siege, occupation and setter-colony and apartheid project in Palestine, despite its ever increasing humanitarian cost.

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What is the use of UN continuously declaring that living conditions in Gaza are deplorable, and not doing anything about it.?
What are the other countries doing about this blockade? NOTHING.
Then UN needs to take some action. Where is the morality of all the countries.?They keep declaring that settlements are illegal, but don't do anything about it.
Empty words. TAKE ACTION. DO SOMETHING. WAKE UP FROM THIS LETHARY. LOOK INTO YOUR SOULS, YOUR CONSCIENCE!!!!! IS THIS YOUR RELIGION ????WHERE IS YOUR HUMANITY???

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The UN was created and is propped up by the West. The West is mostly pro-Israel, therefore the UN can't and won't do anything of substance in Palestine.

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Referring to refugees and Palestinians in particular as “entitled beneficiaries” boggles the mind with its blatant and outrageous characterization lies. Then what are Israelis, disenfranchised? In America, the poor are also called entitled beneficiaries, whereas the rich are coddled with tax cuts. His goal is to widen gaps between people and increase hostilities against the oppressed. There is no moral high ground except ending the Zionist apartheid state by international law.

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Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.