After the bombing, Gaza struggles to restart power, water, hospitals, and economy

Bombing heavily damaged this building in the Al Remal neighborhood in Gaza City. Laila Barhoum / Oxfam

Secretary Blinken must focus on breaking the cycle of violence as he visits the region.

As US Secretary of State Blinken visits the Middle East, Oxfam urged him to ensure vital aid immediately reaches Palestinians in Gaza and to demonstrate America’s commitment to addressing the root causes of violence, including the recent escalation of hostilities.

After 11 days of bombardment, 400,000 people in the Gaza Strip do not have access to regular water supply. The bombing devastated electricity and water services, and severely affected the three main desalination plants in Gaza City.

Oxfam’s Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel Shane Stevenson said: “Every one of the 2.1 million people living in the Gaza Strip has been affected by Israel’s bombing that took 253 lives, destroyed or damaged 258 buildings containing nearly 1,042 homes and commercial offices, and devastated vital public services.”

Around 100,000 Palestinians were displaced by the bombing and are attempting to return home. Even if their homes are still standing, life for them will not be normal.

Fuel is crucial for electricity and water

“Gaza is largely dependent upon fuel for its electricity, including to pump clean water from wells into homes. With the disruption in the supply causing a shortage of fuel, hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza will soon have no access to basic hygiene,” Stevenson said.

“Electricity cuts and the destruction of office buildings have forced many small businesses to come to a halt. Israel's authorities have stopped the bombing but are now restricting fuel deliveries. They have also closed most of the Gaza fishing zone, meaning nearly 3,600 fishermen have now lost their daily income and food.”

“Water is doubly important, during this critical phase of the coronavirus pandemic, to help people limit the spread of COVID-19. Six hospitals and 11 clinics have also been damaged including the only COVID-19 laboratory in Gaza,” he said.

Gaza and the West Bank have already seen more than 330,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 3,700 people have died due to the virus.

Even before the recent hostilities, the average daily consumption of water was just 88 liters (23 gallons) per person - far below the global optimal requirement of 100 liters (26 gallons). Amal, a mother in northern Gaza told Oxfam: “We [now] only get four hours of electricity a day, and we don't have a schedule for it. Water might be available for one hour, but we won't have electricity to pump the water to the roof tank. We stay up all night looking for water to fill plastic buckets.”

Oxfam working to assist Gaza

Oxfam is already working with partners to provide people with immediate life-saving clean water, hygiene kits, and cash to help people buy food and their essentials, and to restore destroyed water systems. The agency aims to reach an additional 282,000 people and needs $3m to ramp up its humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

“Meeting people’s immediate humanitarian needs is critical now. But Gaza cannot rebuild without addressing the root causes of the conflict. The cycle of war means any humanitarian effort now could be lost again tomorrow,” Stevenson added.

The ceasefire in Gaza must hold and the crossings into Gaza must remain open for the urgent work of reconstruction to begin, but this is just the start. As Palestinians in Gaza once again begin to rebuild, they must be given assurances that the US and the international community will do everything in their power to ensure that this round of violence will be the last one.

"With every day that passes without a comprehensive peace agreement in place, the occupation and its daily denial of Palestinians’ rights and dignity is further entrenched,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Global Policy Lead. "The immediate needs in Gaza are immense, but they can’t be solved with aid alone. Secretary Blinken and the US must urgently work to end the occupation and the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip and ensure a just and lasting peace for Palestinians and Israelis."

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