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In Gaza, months of war have left Palestinians with barely the necessities to survive

Palestinians carry salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 30, amid the conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
Omar Al-Qattaa
/
AFP
Palestinians carry salvaged belongings as they leave the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip after they returned briefly to check on their homes on May 30, amid the conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

Amid Israel's bombardment of Gaza that has followed Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, much of the enclave's already fragile infrastructure — water and electricity, as well as housing, hospitals, and schools — has been either damaged or destroyed.

A joint report by the European Union, the World Bank and the United Nations published in March concluded that as of January, direct damage to Gaza's infrastructure amounted to $18.5 billion.

Only a third of the enclave's hospitals are functioning at all, with those remaining crippled by a lack of fuel to run generators, says Juliette Touma, the communications director for UNRWA, the U.N. agency that delivers aid to Gaza.

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Palestinians living in Gaza have instead been forced to rely mostly on makeshift medical clinics, she says, but "it's very basic medical care."

According to Paul Spiegel, a former U.N. official who is now director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, "There's no water anymore, no sanitation or infrastructure available. Same with housing."

People in Gaza "either live in the open air or they're living in destroyed buildings, which are unsafe," he says.

One family that fled Rafah a few weeks ago, after Israeli forces ordered an evacuation, is now living in a bombed-out school in Khan Younis, a city that has been devastated by Israeli shelling.

Ibrahim Abu Issa, 24, says when he and his family left Rafah, "we each took a bag on our back and left the house."

"We tried to go back to get our things but couldn't," he says. "We couldn’t even bring a gas canister or anything."

The full extent of the devastation in Gaza is nearly impossible to quantify. U.N. agencies and privately funded aid groups have had difficulty moving their personnel around safely. Western journalists who managed to report from inside Gaza in the opening months of the war were allowed to go in only with Israeli forces. Media groups are now calling for a lifting of a ban on independent reporters entering the territory.

Given these caveats, below is a snapshot comparing the infrastructure situation on the ground in Gaza before the Hamas attack against the most recent information available.


Housing

Before Oct. 7

There were about 470,000 units throughout the Gaza Strip before the conflict began.

Current

(as of May 30, 2024)

About 179,000 units (according to the World Bank). A World Bank report says, “Over a million people are without homes and 75% of the population is displaced.”


Electricity

Before Oct. 7

In 2022, electricity supplied by Israel and the territory’s single Gaza Power Plant, located in Nuseirat, was available for about 12 hours each day, providing a total of about 180 megawatts. By 2023, that output had dropped to just under 150 megawatts, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Current

(as of May 30, 2024)

According to OCHA, no electricity is being delivered by grid in Gaza.


Water

Before Oct. 7

Although the quality of water available in Gaza had been poor well before the current conflict began, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) says that the per capita consumption of water was 82.7 liters (about 22 gallons) per person per day. The United Nations recommends a minimum of 50 liters (13 gallons) per person per day. More than 80% of that water was drawn from wells fed by a contaminated coastal aquifer. Another 14% was provided by an Israeli pipeline and the remaining 5% by one of several desalination plants, according to PCBS.

Current

(as of May 30, 2024)

Three major desalination plants have been offline since shortly after the start of the current conflict — they either were destroyed by Israeli bombardment or are without the fuel necessary to run them. Many of the dozens of small, privately owned desalination facilities have also been unable to operate due to lack of fuel to run generators.

As a result, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says the per capita availability of water has fallen to just 1 to 3 liters (0.26 to 0.8 gallons) per person per day. An interim damage assessment put out in March by the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations puts the figure at 3 to 7 liters (0.8 to 1.8 gallons) per day — at best, just 14% of the minimum recommendation by the United Nations.


Medical

Before Oct. 7

The World Health Organization says that before the conflict, Gaza had 36 functioning hospitals.

Current

(as of May 30, 2024)

The World Health Organization says only about 12 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are still able to function, although a total of 29 have suffered damage during the conflict. In all, 84% of health facilities are damaged or destroyed.

Education

Before Oct. 7

The U.N. reports that Gaza had 813 primary and secondary schools, with some 625,000 students and 22,000 teachers, along with 12 universities and colleges, before the conflict.

Current

(as of May 30, 2024)

More than 80% of Gaza’s schools have been severely damaged or destroyed by fighting, according to the United Nations, with 212 “direct hits” on schools that destroyed at least 53 of them, as of March. Many other schools are being used as shelters for displaced families. All 12 of Gaza’s universities and colleges have been destroyed, according to OCHA.

NPR's Anas Baba reported from Gaza; Scott Neuman and Daniel Wood contributed from Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Anas Baba
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Daniel Wood is a visual journalist at NPR, where he brings data and analyses into complex topics by paired reporting with custom charts, maps and explainers. He focuses on data-rich topics like COVID-19 outcomes, climate change and politics. His interest in tracking a small outbreak of a novel coronavirus in January 2020 helped position NPR to be among the leading news organizations to provide daily updates on the growth and impact of COVID-19 around the country and globe.