A decade of blockade and closure: Gaza’s patients at risk

Next Wednesday Palestinians in Gaza mark 10 years under Israel’s suffocating blockade and closure. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is extremely concerned about the continued negative impact it is having on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and in particular its effects on healthcare and patients.

The blockade of almost 2 million people in Gaza has been labelled “collective punishment” by the UN Secretary General, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory and by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Collective punishment is prohibited under international law.

The decade of closure, three major offensives by Israeli armed forces, 50 years of occupation and chronic fuel shortages have together pushed Gaza to the brink of being an “unliveable” environment, as the UN warned several years ago.

Restrictions for Palestinians requiring medical treatment outside of Gaza

With the health sector struggling to cope, it is vital that patients are able to travel to hospitals outside of Gaza. Yet, Israel is restricting some Palestinian patients’ access to medical treatment outside of Gaza.  

This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) released its latest data on the restriction of movement for Palestinians requiring medical treatment outside of Gaza. The report demonstrates continued barriers, with 42% of patients applying to leave Gaza via the Erez Crossing in March 2017 being refused a permit by the Israeli authorities, or not receiving a response in time to attend their appointments.

More than half (53%) of patients’ companions – family members accompanying patients to hospital – were also denied permits or received no response to their requests.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights and the WHO have recorded eight cases this year of patients who have died after either being refused a permit or not receiving a response in time for them to reach hospital.

These patients included Farha Al Fayomi, 53, who was was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. At the beginning of 2017 Fahra’s cancer spread and, after an initial chemotherapy in Gaza, doctors referred her to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem in February 2017 for radio-chemotherapy.

Her family submitted three applications for Israeli permits to cross Erez for appointments on 14th February, 7th March and 6th April 6 2017. Farha lost three appointments as a result of pending applications. Her sons appealed through the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and the Aid and Hope Program for cancer patients in Gaza. The Aid and Hope Program requested special coordination on 8th April to transfer her to Amman. While waiting for her permit Farha’s health deteriorated. She was admitted to Rantisi Hospital where she died on 15th April. Three days after Farha died, the Aid and Hope program for cancer patients in Gaza informed the family that her permit had been approved.

The other patients who have died this year after not being able to exit for treatment are:

Shirin Mohamed Al-Ali, 39 

Ahmed Hasan Shubeir, 17

Eman Saleem Al-Kahlout, 48

Kholoud Alsa’aidni, 36

Aya Khalil Abu-Mutlaq, 5

Walid Mohamed Qa’oud, 59

Tal’at Mahmoud Suleiman Al Shawi, 53

Stock shortages in Gaza’s hospitals and clinics

Economic and political impacts from the blockade and occupation are a major cause of inadequate medical supplies in Gaza.  

This week the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza announced that 34% of essential medicines and 32% of medical disposables are at ‘zero stock’, meaning that less than a month’s supply is available on shelves.

Dr. Zakari Abo Qamar, from the Central Drug Store in Gaza, told MAP that many patients, such as cancer patients, those who suffer from cystic fibrosis and kidney failure, are at a high risk of losing their lives due to the shortages of medications.

According to the MoH, 55% of medications used to treat blood diseases and cancers are 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.

Please help MAP get urgently needed medicines into Gaza by donating today.


Ongoing fuel crisis

Hospitals in Gaza have been further impacted recently by the ongoing fuel crisis, causing them to work at minimal capacity with only the most critical services available.

In hospitals in Gaza surgeries are being postponed, sterilisation and cleaning services have been reduced and patients are being discharged prematurely. Medical equipment is rapidly degrading due to constant fluctuations in the electrical current.

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 humanitarian crisis are found, including the lifting of the decade-long blockade and closure.

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