Power crisis leaves Gazans in the dark (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Adel Zaanoun 03/28/12)
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In a small room in Gaza City, Lisa Masharawi reads by candlelight,
dreaming of being able to study for her upcoming exams by the light
that even a small generator could provide.
But for now, as Gaza struggles through the worst power crisis
residents can remember, the flickering light of a candle is all that
"The generator is noisy and the smoke it produces stinks, but it´s a
thousand times better than studying by candlelight," she says. "I
hate the dark."
"How am I supposed to read by candlelight? How will I do well in my
Gaza has long been plagued by power outages, but an unusual
interruption in the flow of smuggled fuel into the territory has
exacerbated the situation, leading to blackouts of up to 18 hours.
Lisa´s father, Abdul Sattar, used to use a generator, but there is no
longer any fuel for it.
"I bought a small generator but there is no fuel because of the
crisis," he said. "The situation right now is disastrous. We live on
the fifth floor and it´s always dark, so we´re always worried about
the children and about how they will be able to read or even climb
Generators have become the norm across Gaza over the past few years,
their din and exhaust fumes filling the air as locals run them to
keep the lights on.
"A generator has become something essential in the lives of people in
Gaza," says Mohammed, an employee at Mustafa Mortaji, the strip´s
largest importer of generators.
"About 80 percent of homes in Gaza have a generator... not to mention
the companies, ministries and hospitals," he said.
On Omar al-Mukhtar street, shopkeepers conduct their business over
the whirr of their generators.
Fadi Shakeek, who owns a shoe shop in Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in
northern Gaza City, says shopkeepers "are suffering economically and
psychologically" because of the electricity outages and fuel
"It´s a financial burden that we have to bear," he says. "We are
forced to run the generators from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm instead of until
11:00 pm and this has a negative effect on us and on the economic
The smell of the fumes and the noise the generators produce "reduces
the number of customers and increases tension. We don´t know when the
electricity will be on and when it will be cut," he says.
"Instead of talking about bread, people are talking about fuel and
diesel and electricity. This is not a life."
Psychiatrist Samir Zaqut says the situation has piled further stress
on Gaza´s population of 1.5 million people.
"People in Gaza live under the Israeli blockade and under the weight
of waiting for the next trauma," he said.
"This pressure puts an economic strain on people, in terms of
additional costs -- and a social strain as well."
Children "are affected more than adults," he added. "This increases
violent behaviour, which increases tension in the family, in a sort
But some are looking at creative ways of overcoming the crisis.
At Gaza City´s Shifa hospital, the largest health facility in the
territory, they have found a partial solution by installing solar
panels on the roof of the building.
And taxi driver Mohammed al-Assi, 27, whose job becomes impossible
with no petrol, has found another way to keep his wheels on the road -
- by using cooking oil.
"Cooking oil is expensive, but for a number of drivers, at least it´s
a solution," Assi said.
The frustration has brought out a sense of black humour in many
The situation has become so bad that brides are insisting on
putting: "Access to a generator" into their wedding contracts, jokes
a 29-year-old woman who gave her name only as Sawsan.
Haj Abu Ahmed from Shati refugee camp has posted a sign on his
house: "They cut the electricity: okay, we bought a petrol generator.
They cut the petrol: okay, we bought a diesel generator. Now they´ve
cut the diesel and there´s nothing left for us but buy a generator
that works on water!"
Others would rather not discuss the issue at all.
"Please do not talk about politics or electricity," reads a sign
plastered on a taxi. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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