The Caritas mobile clinic in Khoza'a, an impoverished area lacking medical services in the south of the Gaza Strip. Credit: Katie Orlinsky/Caritas

By Caritas Jerusalem Communications Department,

Since end of February, Caritas Jerusalem operations in Gaza have been impacted by an oil supply crisis.

“It started with difficulties in communicating with our staff in the field” said Jameel Khoury, health department coordinator based in Jerusalem. “Phones lines and emails were not functioning due to power cuts”.

Now, the Caritas Jerusalem’s health centre in Gaza has had to stop some of the mobile clinic shifts in isolated areas of the Gaza Strip as service stations have run out of petrol to fuel the clinic’s van. The health centre’s generator is empty, and the staff members are working without power most of the time.

Ameen Sabbagh, Caritas Jerusalem coordinator in Gaza sees no improvement in the situation. “In the space of a month, fuel prices have doubled, transport and energy have become a luxury. But despite the lack of power, our health centre will stay open and our staff will do their best to provide care to our patients in those difficult conditions,” says Amen, adding that the centre has power only 2 days a week.

Last week, two young children died in Gaza hospital after their respiratory machine switched off during a blackout.

Gaza’s emergency medical service has halved the number of ambulances it puts on the streets. At least one hospital has cancelled non-essential operations to conserve power for its generator.

The fuel shortages have had a catastrophic effect on daily life. Gazans are enduring daily power cuts of up to 18 hours, hundreds of factories have shut down and even elevators are not working.

The narrow Gaza enclave, which contains a population of about 1.7 million squeezed into an area of about 400 sq km, gets electricity from three sources. However, supply is still insufficient to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the strip.

It receives 17 MW from neighbouring Egypt, 120 MW from Israel, and 64 MW from the main power plant in Gaza. According to officials in the Gaza power plant, the plant does not have enough fuel, so it works only on two generating units that produce a combined 64 MW. The third unit, built in 2002, rarely runs due to shortages in industrial fuel, which is sent from Israel.

Last month, Egypt began cracking down on the illegal flow of fuel to Gaza through the network of smuggling tunnels running under their border. Gaza’s lone power plant ran out of fuel for its generators, causing outages affecting nearly two-thirds of the area’s population.

Egypt sends fuel through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, citing old international understandings which limit the use of Egypt’s Rafah terminal with Gaza to the movement of passengers only.

There are 28 Egyptian Members of Parliament expected today in Gaza in the hope of finding a solution to the crisis.