Gaza health crisis deepens as 33 percent of medicines at ‘zero stock’

The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza has this week announced that 33% of essential medicines and 31% of medical disposables are at ‘zero stock’, meaning that less than a month’s supply is available on shelves.

According to the MoH, 55% of medications used to treat blood diseases and cancers were at critical levels. Irregular supply of chemotherapy medications can interrupt courses of treatment, which can in turn severely reduce the effectiveness of treatment and increase the risk of drug resistance. Switching to a new medication mid-treatment is like ‘going back to square one’ for cancer patients.

MAP’s team in Gaza has also highlighted particular scarcity of special formula milk for babies with phenylketonuria disorder – an inherited disorder which affects metabolism of certain amino acids –  at Gaza’s Central Drug Store.

The news is another indicator of Gaza’s deepening health crisis. The UN has reported that chronic fuel shortages, which MAP reported on last month, mean that hospitals are only able to provide the most critical services such as intensive care. Elective surgeries are being put on hold, and sterilisation and cleaning services have been reduced, increasing the risk of complications and infections for patients. Though the UN has provided US$500,000 in emergency funding to buy fuel for hospital back-up generators, this additional support will only forestall the fuel crisis for a matter of weeks in the absence of long-term solutions.

The UN has also stated that the number of patients being referred outside of Gaza is also increasing. Despite this, as MAP has highlighted in a recent briefing, patients are frequently denied permits to leave Gaza for treatment by the Israeli authorities, with 40 percent denied or delayed in February 2017. According to the UN, the percentage of denied or delayed permits has increased each year since 2012. In the last month, two patients, one a five-year-old girl, died after missing medical appointments in East Jerusalem while awaiting a response to their permit requests.

MAP is very concerned about the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and in particular its effects on healthcare and patients. Urgent action is needed on the part of the international community to both address the immediate needs of the population, and to ensure sustainable solutions to the crisis are found, including the lifting of the decade-long blockade and closure.


 

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In June, Palestinians will mark 50 years under occupation, and a decade under blockade in Gaza. Palestinians and people across Britain are calling on the UK government to take action to bring these man-made humanitarian crises to an end.

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