Three Palestinians – one working in healthcare, another working in education and another who is unemployed – discuss the effect of the embargo and fuel shortages on their lives in the Gaza Strip.
SOLAFA ODAH, 25, BEIT LAHIYA, GAZA
The blockade has affected everything.
Even people who are still earning are not able to buy basic food supplies because the prices are so high.
Last year a bottle of cooking gas cost 35 shekels ($10), now it costs about 150 shekels ($43).
I live with my parents and brother. We still have some cooking gas, but we also use firewood to try to conserve the gas.
I work as a translator and my contract ended in March. It will be hard to find work because most organisations have stopped working here.
Yesterday I had to sit a translating test in Gaza City for a new job. I waited about 15 or 20 minutes to get a taxi into Gaza, and when I got there I had to wait another 20 minutes for the second taxi to take me to the examination room. So, I was late for the test.
It took even longer to get back home.
Before the blockade, I would find a taxi immediately. Now, there’s hardly any fuel, so hardly any taxis.
All my brothers are married, and none of them is working. They cultivate the two pieces of land that our family owns.
FIKR SHALTOOT, 38, GAZA CITY
I work for Medical Aid for Palestinians, a British NGO which funds local healthcare agencies.
The fuel shortages mean staff are often unable to reach the hospitals or primary health care centres where they work.
Some walk, some arrive late, and some don’t come at all. And of course patients themselves find it hard to get to hospital.
Hospitals try to reserve fuel for ambulances, but actually, there is no reserve.
Yesterday [Wednesday] Israel allowed some fuel to the power station here with just two hours to spare.
If the power plant had shut, it would have meant relying on generators – and we have only 25% of the fuel that we need for them as well.
Since the big embargo started last June, spare parts stopped coming into Gaza. So when machines break down they don’t get mended.
In hospitals you find rooms full of equipment that isn’t working: kidney dialysis machines, ventilators – all sorts of life-saving equipment. It’s a critical issue.
There is not a complete blockade on drugs or disposable items, such as syringes or swabs, but there are always shortages. Hospital managers are always worried they’re just about to run out.
This is in addition to the food shortages in hospitals, especially fresh fruit and veg. The food budget cannot stretch to cover the high prices.
One other thing – rubbish. Collections stopped about a week ago, and there’s rubbish on every street.
MAZEN ABU ARMA, 48, RAFAH
I am principal for a school in Gaza City run by Unwra [the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees].
I have just come back to Rafah on the special bus provided by Unwra for staff and pupils.
We heard on the bus radio that if the UN doesn’t get more fuel tomorrow [Friday], there will be no buses on Saturday. Nothing will move, so – no school.
There is hardly any movement on the streets at all, it’s like there’s a curfew. It’s all very hard on the students.
Unwra is the only major organisation working here, it does its very best with the students.
Our school is run on two shifts; different pupils in the morning and the afternoon. Unwra provides a sandwich for the new classes at the beginning of their school day.
But we have a percentage of students and teachers who are absent every day. They cannot always find the transport to get here.
John Ging, [the director of Unwra] is running a big project to raise the achievement of students in UN schools, this is having a good effect.
Apart from this, Gaza is really going downhill.