The health system in Gaza cannot handle another war


A new war would lead to the collapse of an already-debilitated medical infrastructure in Gaza, Palestinian health officials warn.


A wounded Palestinian protester is evacuated and treated at Al-Awda Hospital in Gaza City, after the Israeli navy tried to block a flotilla that set out to break the decade-long blockade with gunfire and tear gas canisters on September 24, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

Amjad Yaghi, +972 Magazine, November 13, 2018

GAZA CITY — Fear has been palpable across Gaza for the past couple of days, not only in homes but also in hospitals and medical clinics. For years, health professionals have warned of a looming collapse of medical services. If Tuesday’s nascent, Egyptian-brokered cease-fire doesn’t hold, a war would devastate Gaza’s medical infrastructure, Palestinian health authorities say.

On Monday, Gazans experienced one of the most difficult nights since the war in 2014. After Israeli special forces bungled a covert operation deep inside the strip, the ensuing firefight nearly led to a full-fledged war. The barrage of Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket fire into Israel that followed, only made the situation worse.

It’s not just that Gaza’s hospitals and clinics are in bad shape: they are still busy treating people who were wounded in previous rounds of violence, most recently during the Great Return March. Israeli snipers shot thousands of demonstrators, leaving Gaza’s hospitals overwhelmed to the point that hundreds of patients had to make do with treatment in hospital corridors, sometimes on the floor.

Health services in Gaza have been stretched even thinner since early November, when 12 people contracted the swine flu, six of whom ended up dying. There is no vaccine for the virus in Gaza, neither in the Ministry of Health’s stocks nor in private practices, which is emblematic of a far broader problem.

A Palestinian man walks through the wreckage of a building that was damaged by Israeli air strikes in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 13, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

A Palestinian man walks through the wreckage of a building that was damaged by Israeli air strikes in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 13, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The shortfall of medicine and equipment is threatening entire medical care programs, said Maher Shamieh, the general director of primary care at Gaza’s Health Ministry. Of the 143 drugs currently available, Gaza has run out of almost 100, with 16 more medicines expected to be used up in the next month. A war in Gaza will lead to an “uncontrollable medical crisis,” he said.

Compounding the deficit in medicine is a lack of specialists, according to the director of government hospitals in Gaza, Dr. Abdel Latif al-Hajj. There are 12 government hospitals in Gaza that employ about 2,000 doctors, of whom 800 are specialists, explained al-Hajj. Part of the problem, he explained, is that various issues resulting from the Palestinian political division between the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza have disincentivized younger doctors from joining government hospitals.

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Gaza’s drinking water spurs blue baby syndrome, serious illnesses

Contaminated and scarce water owing to Israel’s brutal siege and bombing of infrastructure leads to death and disease.


A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank filled by a charity inside their dwelling in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 3, 2017 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Sandy Tolan, Al Jazeera, 29 Oct 2018

This article is the first of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The second, which examines solutions to Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Tuesday, October 30.

Gaza – The unshaven doctor with circles under his eyes enters the children’s ward at Al Nassar hospital in Gaza City. It’s a Thursday evening, almost the weekend. The ward is bleak and eerily quiet, but for the occasional wail of an infant.

At each cubicle, sectioned off by curtains, it’s a similar image: A baby lies alone in a bed, hooked up to tubes, wires and a generator; a mother sits in silent witness at the bedside.

Dr Mohamad Abu Samia, the hospital’s director of paediatric medicine, exchanges a few quiet words with one mother, then gently lifts the infant’s gown, revealing a scar from heart surgery nearly half the length of her body.

At the next cubicle, he attends to a child suffering from severe malnutrition. She lies still, her tiny body connected to a respirator. Because electricity runs only four hours a day in Gaza, the baby must stay here, where generators keep her alive.

“We are very busy,” the overwhelmed doctor says. “Babies suffering from dehydration, from vomiting, from diarrhoea, from fever.” The skyrocketing rate of diarrhoea, the world’s second largest killer of children under five, is reason enough for alarm.

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But in recent months Dr Abu Samia has seen sharp rises in gastroenteritis, kidney disease, paediatric cancer, marasmus – a disease of severe malnutrition appearing in infants – and “blue baby syndrome”, an ailment causing bluish lips, face, and skin, and blood the colour of chocolate.

Before, the doctor says, he saw “one or two cases” of blue baby syndrome in five years. Now it’s the opposite – five cases in one year.

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How can Gaza’s contaminated water catastrophe be solved?

Barely three percent of Gaza’s drinking water wells is fit for human consumption, and the crisis is claiming lives.


Mousa Hilleh, 48, rebuilt his home after the 2014 Gaza war and says not having access to clean water is a major concern [Abdel Kareem Hana/Al Jazeera]

Sandy Tolan, Al Jazeera, 30 Oct 2018

This article is the second of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The first, which examines Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Monday, October 29.

Gaza – When it comes to survival in Gaza, safe, clean drinking water is not at the top of Mousa Hillah’s list of priorities.

Since the 2014 war, Hillah, known to neighbours and family as Abu Ali, has had far bigger worries, which are etched deeply into the exhausted face of the 48-year-old grandfather.

Dodging shell fire from Israeli tanks, he fled with his family from the destruction of his Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, flattened by Israel in an attack so devastating – 7,000 shells in barely an hour – that it astonished even US military officials. (“Holy bejeezus!” one retired general exclaimed.)

The family took refuge for months in an in-law’s house near the sea, along with 50 other people. When they returned, Abu Ali found his home – the one he had built after 30 years of working construction in Israel – utterly destroyed.

Brick by board, he rebuilt it, adorning his front entrance, in a dose of biting irony, with repurposed tank shells.

And now, as he sits in the filtered morning light beneath a lattice of grape leaves, he worries less about potable water than the Israeli drone buzzing overhead – often the harbinger of another attack.

God forbid if the military on either side, Israel or Egypt, starts shooting people approaching the fence, desperate for clean water.

Gidon Bromberg, director of Ecopeace Middle East, based in Tel Aviv

“I want to sleep well,” Abu Ali says, as his family takes refuge inside the rebuilt house. “I don’t feel safe in my home.”

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November 20, 2018
Fundraiser: Clean Water for the Children of Gaza

First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
Madison
7:00 pm

Help provide a Maia Project water filter from the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to serve clean drinking water to 3,250 students of two schools and their families in Rafah. This is a joint project of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, First Unitarian Society of Madison, Jewish Voice for Peace – Madison, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

The evening will include a project presentation, music by Beat Road Blues, inspirational words from Rep. Mark Pocan . . . plus light refreshments.

Free and open to the public. Donations will be gratefully accepted.

Can’t make the benefit but would still like to donate? You can donate online or send a check payable to MRSCP marked “water” to:

    MRSCP
    P.O. Box 5214
    Madison, WI 53705

Co-sponsored by: Bright Stars of Bethlehem – local chapter, Call for Peace Drum and Dance Company, Christ The Solid Rock Baptist Church, Columbia Support Network, Eastside Planning Council, Ecumenical Peace Working Group, Family Farm Defenders, James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Madison-Arcatao Sister City Project, Madison-area Urban Ministry, Madison Friends American Friends Service Committee Group, Mary House, Memorial United Church of Christ, Prairie Unitarian Universalist Social Action, Wisconsin Grassroots Network, UNA-USA Dane County Chapter, Amnesty International Group 139. Welcomed by WORT Radio.