Forget ice-cream – there’s no electricity for the fridge, so it’s melted. Going to a shop to buy some doesn’t help – you walk in the door and slide several feet in the melt-water from their fridge, almost taking out the shelf of packet-food you grab to steady yourself. You’ll have to settle for a warm bottle of something sickly-sweet, because they don’t even bother stocking ice-cream anymore, and the water is all sold out.
The donkey-drawn vegetable cart outside has a pile of cool green cucumbers, and blazing red tomatoes – gazpacho comes to mind, so you buy a kilo of each. You rush back home trying to get there ‘on the hour’ to catch the elevator during it’s five minutes of operation, mentally calculating what else you need and dismissing it because if it’s the choice between a fresh red pepper and a ten-floor hike in this heat, the pepper loses.
You make it. Dumping the bags on the bench, you go to the fridge and draw back at the musty smell that emanates from within. You can’t figure it out – it can’t be the butter, that melted and had to be thrown out days ago. The cheese left of its own accord the day after. The wizened lemons wouldn’t smell like that, nor the bottle of soy sauce – and there’s not much else left in there.
You open the vegetable crisper and get out an onion that is miraculously still crispish, and the red pepper that looks more like a sun-dried tomato – but hey, it’s going to be liquidised anyway.
The recipe suggests a couple of slices of french bread. In the absence of such a luxury, you open the freezer to get out some pita. You almost fall over backwards – THAT is where the smell is coming from. The precise source is best left undisturbed. The bread, despite being inside a plastic bag, is soggy and wet. You take a piece into your bedroom and set it on the sill in the sun.
Back in the kitchen you chop garlic, the onion, the wrinkly pepper, a couple of cucumbers and the tomatoes and toss them in the blender. Uh oh, no electricity.
You go into the next room and check for the indicator light in the fuse-box – have they turned the generator on yet? Yes! Last month, you bit the bullet and had cables installed to connect you to the neighbour’s generator – for a flat rate per month of only seven times the municipality rate per kw, plus more for whatever extra you use over that allowance, he promised a continuous supply, except for when the grid is on (two hours a day) and one hour for it to rest – even generators get tired in this heat. But that was the soft-sell – in reality it comes on randomly, sometimes at the same time as the grid – but often not at all, for days on end…
When the electrician came to connect you up, and put in a light so you could see in the kitchen as well as use your laptop and internet, he offered to connect a wall power-point too. As you carry the blender into your bedroom and unplug the bedside lamp to plug it in, you congratulate yourself on his foresight.
After a few minutes whizzing, you get the now-dry and brittle bread off the sill, and go back to the kitchen for the vinegar and olive oil to drizzle in. You remove the little cap from the blender lid and start it up – and your sheet turns into a Jackson Pollock as the contents spray out.
Undeterred, you pour half into a bowl, and do it in two stages, using two bowls – something you should have done from the beginning because you knew it was too full, but you wanted to save on dishes because there is no water to wash them with because two hours of power a day is not enough for the water pump to fill the roof tanks….
Back to the kitchen – the bed must wait until there is electricity and water sufficient to do a load of laundry…….
You add the salt and pepper, adjust the seasonings – and now all that is left to do is….chill it for several hours.
The one thing you cannot run off a generator is a fridge – even if you could somehow lug it into your bedroom to plug it in.
You decide that warm gazpacho is actually very tasty.
And that sleeping on the one square foot of clean sheet left really is perfectly bearable…
Lack of water, sanitation and PHC cause explosion of infectious disease in Gaza, threaten public health
Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
August 02, 2014
The people of Gaza face enormous barriers to accessing primary health care, with only 10 of the government’s 56 Primary Health Care clinics operational, eight of UNRWA’s 22 clinics open, and most NGO clinics closed.
The majority of displaced persons have no access whatsoever to primary health care services.
This is at a time when there are urgent public health problems arising from the Israeli offensive threatening the health of the entire population. (more…)
What does a mother in Gaza do on Mothers’ Day?
She wakes to pitch blackness, because there is no electricity to light the room.
She fumbles her way by torch or candlelight (if there is not too much wind to blow it out) to the bathroom.
Is she in luck this-morning? Did the electricity come on during the night and power the pump so that there is water in the roof-top tank to wash with? Even if it is so icy-cold and salty that it stings her eyes almost as much as the teargas that her sisters in the West Bank and Jerusalem must bear?
Is there any water left in the drinking container, to make a cup of coffee, or will she have to stumble into the yard and borrow some from her neighbour’s bucket? Is there even any coffee now that UNRWA has cut her food aid? Will her neighbour have any water left in her bucket this morning?
Will she have time to fetch and make and drink it before the second-youngest child awakes, Nuha, who fell into a fitful fevered sleep it seems like only minutes ago? The child who needs medicine that the hospital does not have, because the Palestinian Authority has not sent it, like the other 79.99% of necessary medicines and disposables?
Will Nuha meet the same fate as her older brother Ahmed, who died at Rafah Crossing waiting to go to Egypt for medical treatment unavailable in Gaza?
Who will say the Salat al-Janazah, with her father stuck two years in an Israeli jail, without charge…
Yes, there is some water, Alhamdulillah – enough for a cup of tea. She lights the gas. It burns a moment, sputters, and dies. The gas has given up the ghost.
She sighs. She prays. She crawls back into the bed she shares with her children, a mattress on the floor of the room they now call home. A room in the already-overcrowded house of a relative, where five families inhabit each of the five bedrooms that once housed but one child – yet still better than the rubbled remains of their own houses, struck by Israeli rockets, made unlivable by floodwaters, and for which repairs are impossible because of the lack of building materials.
At least she is not alone, she thinks as she dozes off, wrapping her surviving children in the warmth of her love, the only thing she has to give them.
Who will help her, this mother of Gaza, on this Mothers’ Day – or any other day?
As streets in Gaza flow with excrement, as families stay awake until 2am to take advantage of the two hours that water will flow through the taps – if they are lucky – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, celebrated the UN General Assembly’s decision declaring 19th of November as UN World Toilet Day with a Press Release on November 15.
The irony will not escape Palestinians in Gaza – they must be asking themselves “Is she for real?” Or is it just a very cynical preliminary to announcing Gaza’s latest distinction – from being the largest open air prison in the world, to being the largest open air toilet?
“I hope this declaration galvanises national and international action to reach the billions of people who still do not benefit from this basic human right,” the Special Rapporteur said in the statement released the day after the al-Sabra neighbourhood in al-Zaytoun, Gaza City, was flooded with sewage.
Perhaps she could make a special effort to contact Israel and Egypt directly, being the UN member states that are preventing the entry of fuel supplies into Gaza necessary to run the power plant that provides the electricity to run the sanitation and water pumps that would enable Gazans to enjoy this ‘basic human right.’
Perhaps she could make a special effort to remind the Palestinian Authority (PA) to take off their blinkers and ‘observe’ the conditions of their fellow statesmen and women in Gaza, and maybe even suggest the PA cease colluding with Israel in extorting exorbitant prices for fuel from the besieged Gazan authorities – fuel which the European Community has funded, but which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority are seeking to profiteer from by imposing on Gaza excessive price hikes (Israel), and additional taxes (the PA).
And perhaps the United Nations and its member states could ‘put their money where their mouth is’ – they still have three days in which to clean up their act, and ensure that World Toilet Day is not the day that Gaza is officially accorded that questionable distinction.