The trauma of the flooding has been exacerbated by the Israeli blockade — in place since 2006 and credited with wrecking the economy and causing a humanitarian crisis.
Flooding in the last week has displaced tens of thousands of Gaza Strip residents, with matters being made worse by a lack of electricity, raw sewage spilling into flood waters, and the Israeli enforced blockade.
Inclement weather that hit much of the region in the form of snow last week has been to blame for the floods, but an unpredicted amount of rainfall has also contributed to the problem.
What has really compounded the problem, however, are a loss of power in several neighborhoods in Gaza City and the potential for widespread disease from waters contaminated with raw sewage.
On Nov. 13, more than 35,000 cubic metres of raw sewage overflowed when the Zeitoun pumping station failed, affecting 3,000 nearby residents, reported IRIN News in an article on Thursday.
And just as the mess was being cleaned up, the area was again flooded — this time with approximately twice as much waste — when heavy rain fell over the Gaza Strip between Dec. 11 and 15. In Gaza City, one of the worst-hit areas, hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sewage and rainwater overflowed from pumping stations and manholes, flooding streets and homes.
The Israeli blockade has also complicated the situation. Gaza residents were lacking basic, cheap fuel until last week, when the area’s sole power plant was re-started. Until Dec. 15, when the power came back on, Gazans were enduring blackouts lasting nearly 18-21 hours a day.
However, it is still spotty. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which refers to the Gaza Strip and West Bank as the Occupied Palestinian Territories, said “the fuel shortage has severely disrupted the delivery of essential services, which depend on the operation of backup generators during the electricity outages.”
The Qatari government is in the middle of providing a $10 million grant to provide fuel over a two-week period.
Photographs taken just last Thursday show Gazans struggling to get around and carry out basic tasks. And the flooding has destroyed livelihoods of all kinds.
Reports from Inter Press Service News Agency on Saturday said Mohammed Abu Draz, 43, from Abbasan in the south Gaza Strip, has been stunned by the turn of events. He was preparing to take the produce from his three chicken farms to Gaza markets when the rains came and destroyed everything.
Each of his farms had 3,000 to 5,000 chickens. He estimates he has suffered a damage of nearly $42,000.
Thousands are reportedly still living in shelters. Pumps are in short supply to aid in the effort to rid streets, homes and businesses trapped in low-lying areas of the remaining flood waters.
It has yet to be determined how the impact of the floods will affect life in Gaza, or if the Israeli government will loosen its blockade for any humanitarian efforts to reach the Palestinian people.
The blockade has been in place since 2006, abolishing most imports and exports, and has led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis, including malnutrition and increased poverty.