Despite return of some electricity, Gaza’s medical emergency deepens

Update (29 January 2018):

Today, MAP’s team in Gaza reported that Beit Hanoun Hospital has closed due to severe shortages of fuel for hospital generators. The hospital serves 60,000 Palestinians living in the Beit Hanoun area, with 66 inpatient beds and 35 for the emergency department and daily care services. In a statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) said "patients will be transferred to other governmental hospitals."

MRI services at the European Gaza Hospital (EGH) – serving patients from all MOH hospitals in Gaza – have also been suspended.

Since August 2017, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been sounding the alarm about the deepening humanitarian emergency in Gaza, where the health system is suffering the cumulative effects of a decade of illegal closure, severe shortages of medicines and equipment, and a protracted electricity crisis.

This week MAP’s team in Gaza has reported that urgent action is needed to prevent the collapse of the health system. Despite a temporary restoration of power funded by the Palestinian Authority and provided by Israel, Gaza still only receives 6-8 hours of mains electricity daily. Hospitals are therefore still reliant on backup generator power for the majority of the day, fuel for which is dwindling.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that intense efforts are being made to utilize and stretch current fuel reserves, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that no international donors have so far come forward to support the cost of fuel to keep hospital facilities running. The Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza has warned that this fuel shortage poses a direct threat to hundreds of patients across Gaza, including 113 neonates in the neonatal intensive care units and 100 patients in the intensive care units. It will also affect key operations including 200 daily surgeries and 100 caesarean sections. 

The MoH is on the verge of closing three hospitals, with the fate of two more hospitals close behind. These closures would leave Gaza’s two million residents with only three major hospitals open. Further to this, amid ongoing issues with unpaid salaries, many health workers cannot afford the cost of transportation and are forced to walk long distances into work. This raises further questions about the safety and standard of health care and its increasingly uncertain future.

Medicine shortages

Severe medical shortages in Gaza’s hospitals continue to negatively affect patients. In December 2017, 44% of essential medicines and 28% of medical disposables were at ‘zero stock’, meaning that less than a month’s supply was available on shelves. According to the MoH, this includes 72% of medications used to treat auto-immune, genetic and infectious diseases, with 61% of medications used to treat blood diseases and cancer also 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.

MAP’s team in Gaza has also highlighted particular scarcity of Polydine, a general anti-septic solution used for wounds and burns, which could have a serious effect on infection control across all departments in the health sector.

URNWA budget cuts

The US Governments decision last week to halve its planned funding to the UN agency responsible for humanitarian support to Palestinian refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), could have potentially disastrous effects for the health and living conditions of refugees in Gaza. This decision poses a direct threat to healthcare, education and emergency food assistance for 70% of the population in Gaza who are reliant on UNRWA’s services.

With UNRWA already suffering a prolonged budgetary deficit, this decision means UNRWA’s ability to fulfill its mandate and provide basic humanitarian services is under immense pressure, threatening a further severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

MAP's work

MAP’s team in Gaza is responding to the developing needs of the health system by purchasing and distributing medicines and providing training and material support to neonatal intensive care units and other critical services in hospitals.

Please donate today to support this vital work.


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