Health services in Gaza crippled by fuel shortage

Medical staff work at a hospital in Gaza. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Health services in Gaza crippled by fuel shortage

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian government has cut the electricity supply lines to six health centers in the Gaza Strip in a desperate effort to combat a chronic fuel shortage facing the occupied territory’s clinics and hospitals.
Officials in the coastal enclave have portrayed the move as a last ditch attempt to avert a “severe crisis” from crippling Gaza’s health system eleven years after Israel imposed a devastating land, air and sea blockade on the area.
But the blackout has also underlined continued divisions between rival Palestinian factions who blame each other for a funding gap of more than $290,000 in the health service’s budget. While Hamas claims not to have received the money, the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank insists it has been allocated but is not being spent properly.
Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, warned that the fuel shortage was expected to get significantly worse if the problems continued.
“We are concerned that more [generators] will stop every day because there is no horizon to this severe crisis,” he said.
Approximately 1.9 million people, including 1.3 million refugees, are estimated to live in Gaza and roughly 80 percent of the population is dependent on international assistance, according to the UN.
While the main hospitals in the area are still functioning, the Ministry of Health decided on Monday to shut down the electricity generators supplying six health centers — bringing to 19 the total number of hospitals and clinics now without power as a result of “severe austerity measures.”
Gaza remains under the control of Hamas, which took power in 2007 after winning legislative elections a year earlier. Its victory led to a bitter dispute with Fatah that only ended last autumn, when the two sides agreed to a reconciliation deal after talks brokered by Egypt.
But the agreement has yet to be fully implemented and the Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Jawad Awad, has accused Hamas of contributing to the crisis in Gaza by mismanaging its resources. Based in the occupied West Bank, he told state radio that his ministry had fulfilled its funding obligations — a claim rejected by Al-Qidra.
Blackouts and load-shedding have long been common in Gaza, with electricity often limited to just a few hours every day for the general population.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza says it needs 40,000 liters of diesel every month in order for its hospitals and clinics to receive 12 hours of electricity per day. It currently appears to be far short of this target.
Gaza is already in the grip of a severe economic crisis that has decimated the private sector. Last month businesses throughout the area staged a mass strike in protest against conditions and announced they would stop receiving goods through the remaining commercial border crossing to Israel at Kerem Shalom.
Even the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, has warned that Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of total collapse.
Maher Al-Tabaa, director of public relations at the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, described the economic situation as a “clinical death.”
“We seek to send a message to all parties — from the factions, the government, international organizations and the international community that we cannot live in Gaza if the situation continues as it is,” he told the Arab News.


Turkey seeks to soothe markets over tensions with US

Updated 18 min 14 sec ago
0

Turkey seeks to soothe markets over tensions with US

  • The Turkish currency is being pummeled as a result of a diplomatic standoff with its NATO ally the US
  • Turkey has also in recent days shown appetite to repair ties with Europe after a crisis sparked by Ankara’s crackdown on alleged plotters of the 2016 failed coup

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s finance minister Berat Albayrak will on Thursday seek to soothe the markets over the lira’s dramatic fall in the wake of escalating tensions with the US.
Some 3,000 investors from the US, Europe and Asia registered to join a conference call with Albayrak at 1300 GMT, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Albayrak, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, was appointed last month and faces a tough task in getting the economy in order.
He will be hoping to make a stronger impression than last Friday when he made a long-planned presentation on Turkey’s growth strategy at the very moment the lira was in freefall.
“This is Albayrak’s last chance to prove three things: that he understands what is happening, that he can react accordingly and that he has influence over Erdogan,” a European diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.
The Turkish currency is being pummeled as a result of a diplomatic standoff with its NATO ally the US — over the detention by Ankara of an American pastor — which has snowballed into one of the worst crisis in bilateral ties in years.
The lira was being traded at 5.7 against the dollar and 6.5 against euro — after it lost nearly a quarter of its value on Friday and Monday.
The slight rebound comes after the Turkish central bank took a raft of measures to keep financial stability and ensure Turkish banks have sufficient liquidity.
However, analysts say such measures are far from satisfactory and call for a sharp hike in interest rates — strongly opposed by Erdogan’s government which sees economic growth as its top priority.
“So far, Turkey does not seem to be changing its policies fast enough,” Berenberg economist Holger Schmieding commented.
“As a result, the risk is mounting that the Turkish economy may contract for a while in the absence of a credible policy change fast.”
Tensions between Ankara and Washington have risen after Turkey refused to free US pastor Andrew Brunson detained in October 2016 on charges of terror and espionage and who is currently under house arrest.
US President Donald Trump tweeted last Friday that Washington was doubling aluminum and steel tariffs for Ankara, a move that sent the lira into a tailspin.
In response, Erdogan has called for a boycott of US electronic goods such as the iPhone and Ankara has sharply hiked tariffs on some US products, in a move called “regrettable” by the White House.
Erdogan has shown no little willingness to compromise with the US and vowed to emerge victorious from the “economic attack” while slamming the lira crash as a “political plot.”
He has also warned Ankara could start looking for new allies, new markets after its partnership with Washington may be in jeopardy.
Qatar, backed by Erdogan during the Saudi-led embargoes on the emirate in 2017, on Wednesday pledged to channel $15 billion direct investment into Turkey, a sign of burgeoning ties between the two countries.
Turkey has also in recent days shown appetite to repair ties with Europe after a crisis sparked by Ankara’s crackdown on alleged plotters of the 2016 failed coup.
Erdogan is due to hold a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday a day after speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
An Istanbul court ordered the release of Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic Wednesday who has spent more than a year in jail over alleged links to the 2016 coup bid.