Tuesday 14 August 2018

On Thursday, all fuel shipments from Kerem Shalom, the main Israeli cargo crossing into Gaza, were stopped for the second time in less than a month, prompting fears that hospitals, homes and water treatment facilities will be hard hit. 

Even before Thursday’s suspension of fuel shipments, hospitals were already running on emergency fuel supplies. These were scheduled to run out on 30 August, which would have meant they were unable to operate for 24 hours a day. The sudden loss of fuel deliveries via Kerem Shalom will likely see this deadline come even sooner, with plans to replenish emergency supplies in doubt. According to the UN, this will put the lives of more than 1,700 people including hundreds of the most vulnerable children – babies in incubators, anyone requiring emergency surgery or using a respirator – in extreme danger every single day.

Fuel shortages have also impacted on water access, which had already declined by a third since May 2017with people now down to just half of the international minimum standard a day.

At this time, it is not clear how long the closure, announced late on Wednesday, will last. In mid-July the crossing was closed to fuel and cooking gas for almost a week, which further depleted stockpiles, caused prices to rise and made Gaza even less resistant to any future shocks or closures.  

Misty Buswell, Save the Children’s Director of Advocacy for the Middle East Region, said: 

“The decision to close Kerem Shalom to fuel and cooking supplies is dangerous and could prove devastating for the most vulnerable in Gaza – hitting hospitals, homes and water supplies and putting the lives of hundreds of children at risk every single day.

“The blockade as a whole is illegal under international law and it is unacceptable to place conditions on children’s rights to access to health and education. The crossing must be reopened urgently to all commercial goods, and we must win assurances that no future closures take place.

“Closing the crossing again has added yet another layer of vulnerability to the situation faced by children living under the blockade. If fuel is not allowed immediately, hospitals and essential infrastructure such as water treatment and sewage facilities, will exhaust their emergency reserves and be forced to introduce even tighter measures to cope with the crisis. 

“We can expect to see numerous scheduled operations pushed back and an increase in the amount of raw or partially treated sewage that is being pumped into the sea. This will have a far-reaching public health impact on children as it will put further strain on their limited access to medical services and drinking water. 

“Ninety-eight per cent of the water supply was already undrinkable and electricity was down to just a few hours a day. Gaza’s children already have difficulty accessing basic medical services and drinking water, and with each day the crossing is closed a humanitarian catastrophe looms closer. 

The occupying power is obliged to provide for the humanitarian needs of the protected population and it is imperative that the blockade is ended and supplies allowed back in immediately. The international community must also step up and ensure that the constant erosion of children’s basic rights, such as access to health, is stopped. 


Notes to editors:

  • If fuel supplies are not replenished the UN WHO estimates that 1,715 patients a day will be in mortal danger. This includes an average of: 113 new born, 100 patients in intensive care units, 702 patients requiring haemodialysis, 200 patients in need of surgery, 100 women in need of caesarean or obstetric surgeries, and 500 patients in need of emergency care. 
  • More than 100 million litres of poorly treated sewage are being discharged into the Mediterranean every day, according to UN OCHA. As a result, there is an increased risk of waterborne diseases due to inability to process sewage.
  • UN estimates that 1.27 million people will be directly affected by the closure of the hospitals and reduction in provision of vital health interventions, according to UN OCHA.
  • Funding for emergency fuel will run out for all critical facilities in early August, with US $4.5 million required to cover fuel supplies through the end of the year, according to the UN OCHA.