UN warns Gaza hospitals on 'verge of disaster'
Fuel for emergency generators that keep Gaza's hospitals operating will run out within ten days, the United Nations has warned.
The UN's office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs [OCHA] said in an appeal for donor support on Tuesday that Gaza was on the "verge of disaster".
"Immediate donor support is urgent to ensure that vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza can access life-saving health, water and sanitation services," OCHA said in a statement.
"Hospitals have already begun to close. Without funding, more service providers will be forced to suspend operations over the coming weeks, and the situation will deteriorate dramatically," it added.
The shortage stems from a dispute between Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamist group and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
Britain-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians said in a statement on Wednesday that generators at 19 Ministry of Health-run healthcare centres have stopped because of the shortage.
The medical charity added that NGO-run hospitals were struggling to cope with the increase in demand for their services.
The internationally recognised Palestinian government, based in the West Bank and run by Hamas's longtime rivals Fatah, has accused the Islamists of exaggerating the problem, saying fuel and funding have been provided.
Hamas last week accused the PA of deliberately failing to fulfil its fuel needs.
"We hold the government responsible for this collapse and its consequences and call upon all Palestinians to confront this deliberate abandonment of Gaza and its people," a Hamas spokesman said.
Israel has maintained a crippling siege of the Gaza Strip for more than a decade which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.
Human rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's two million residents.
Gaza needs around 500 megawatts of power a day but receives less than half of that, meaning residents receive only a few hours of mains electricity per day.
The UN provides some financing to help ensure key infrastructure such as hospitals have fuel, but regularly faces funding shortages.