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Deaths and no dinner

Deaths and no dinner

Electricity cuts in Gaza continue to kill and distort normal life, writes Saleh Al-Naami


Fadiya Al-Zaher, 55, was supposed to return last Thursday to her house following routine kidney dialysis at Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in the centre of the Gaza Strip. She used to go three times a week. Her son Amin, was with her when the power supply to the hospital was cut off and the backup generators, short of fuel, failed to kick in.

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 Gaza. Amin phoned the hospital and was told that it wasn't ready to take in more patients. Then a nurse came and told Amin that his mother had gone into a coma. An hour later, she was pronounced dead.

Fadiya's story illustrates the fate awaiting hundreds of people diagnosed with chronic illnesses in Gaza.

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 Gaza, which led to shortages in basic medicines and medical supplies and rendered hundreds of medical instruments unusable," Naim noted.

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.

Walking down Omar Al-Mokhtar Street, the thoroughfare that traverses Gaza from east to west, one senses the disappointment on the faces of people who find fuul and falafel shops closed because of shortages of gas and bread. Most of the customers commute to the city and have no time to eat breakfast at home. Owners of the few restaurants still in operation warned their clients that they might not be able to stay in business. Many bakeries have discontinued operations due to shortages of wheat, which comes from Israel.

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 Gaza, a group of men congregate every night in a hut made of palm fronds. Amer Boreik, 42, spends every night at the hut. He says that he is in no mood to go home after evening prayers. With no television and no computer, he gets bored.

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.

The link:

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2008/924/re1.htm

 

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