Deaths and no dinner
Electricity cuts in
Fadiya Al-Zaher, 55, was supposed to return last Thursday to her house following routine kidney dialysis at
Amin was running up and down the corridor leading to her room, not knowing what to do. His sister, Tahani, suggested that they take their mother to another hospital in
Fadiya's story illustrates the fate awaiting hundreds of people diagnosed with chronic illnesses in
Khalil Al-Koreimah, 59, nearly died in similar circumstances. An asthma patient, Khalil keeps an electrically operated oxygen pump at home that he uses in emergencies. When Khalil needed to use the pump recently, there was no electricity in the entire neighbourhood. Luckily, a friend of Khalil's son owns a generator. His son drove his father to the friend's house, where the pump was connected to the generator and Khalil had a narrow escape.
Many Palestinian families have lost confidence in the ability of the health system to help them. Health Minister Bassem Naim says that due to recurrent power cuts death "on a large scale" is expected. He told Al-Ahram Weekly that central oxygen supply stations, catering to the needs of patients with respiratory problems, are hardly operational. Sterilisation equipment needed for surgeries can't function anymore. And pasteurisation machines for children's milk are not working.
Dozens of respirators in intensive care units are likely to stop working, which would mean death for hundreds of patients. Hundreds of infants needing incubators are unlikely to survive the power cuts. Cardiac units, physical therapy departments, and other facilities may not be able to function soon. "We have made repeated pleas, warning of a health disaster due to the unjust blockade on
Palestinians have to rely on primitive techniques to cook. At dawn, Aisha, 57, who lives north of Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp, rides a donkey with her grandson Mohamed, 10, to the orange fields and olive orchards nearby. The two then proceed to forage for dry leaves and twigs. Aisha then uses the material to start a bonfire and cook for her family of 12.
The extraordinary circumstances are changing not only the way Palestinians eat, but also the way they entertain. In the neighbourhood of Birkat Al-Wezz in central
Teenagers usually hang out at public squares, chatting or playing games. Families living near the public areas in which the young gather often complain of the noise. The young, they say, don't go home until electricity is restored.
Electricity cuts have also affected the way Gazans offer social congratulations or condolences. Some visits are postponed until the electricity is back. Osama Ahmed, who lives in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp with his wife and children, visits his in-laws in the nearby camp of Al-Noseirat when electricity exists. In days when Al-Noseirat experiences power cuts and Al-Maghazi has power, in-laws come to visit.
The lack of electricity has also changed the way students do their schoolwork. Most try to finish as soon as they get home, before the power goes out.
Since the power cuts started, most Palestinian families began skipping dinner. Marawan Abd Rabbu, 40, a resident of Al-Maghazi Camp, told the Weekly that his wife found it hard to cook at night. So the family now has a late lunch and skips dinner altogether.