WHO: Lives at risk as emergency fuel for Gaza hospitals runs out

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s latest situation report underlines the seriousness of Gaza’s humanitarian decline in the face of fuel shortages, continuing casualties from Israeli military's use of force, and the cumulative effects of 11 years of closure and blockade.

The update, covering 24-30 July, reports the deaths of seven Palestinians in the last week – four of whom died in the context of the ongoing ‘Great March of Return’ protests at the fence, including two children – bringing the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since 30 March to 162. A further 412 Palestinians were injured in the past week, bringing the total to 17,259 since the protests began. In total 5,694 have been hospitalised with limb injuries, many of these caused by live ammunition. A total of 4,348 gunshot wounds have been reported.

An estimated 1,200 people with gunshot injuries will need complex limb reconstruction, requiring as many as seven surgeries and extensive rehabilitation over up to two years. This figure, quoted in the WHO’s report, comes from an assessment carried out by MAP’s surgeons and local Ministry of Health surgeons as part of MAP’s support to orthopaedic surgery and trauma care services, ongoing since the 2014 military offensive in Gaza.

The extreme healthcare resource costs created by these injuries compounds an already-bleak scene in Gaza’s health system and across Gaza society more widely. A recent briefing by Oxfam, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Premiere Urgence International (PUI) reports some shocking statistics on the humanitarian situation impacted by  Israel’s “tightening restrictions” on Gaza

  • 53 % of the population in Gaza is living under the poverty line
  • More than 49% of people are unemployed
  • Last year (2017) Israel granted 51% fewer exit permits granted to compared to 201697% of water is undrinkable
  • Electricity blackouts continue for 18-20 hours per day, and an 11-year-old in Gaza has never experienced a full day of electricity

Gaza’s electricity crisis is or particular concern to the health sector. Gaza’s hospitals are running essential services on emergency backup generators for the majority of the day. UN-donated fuel to keep these generators running, however, is due to run out by the end of this month (August). The WHO warns that unless this critical issue is resolved, services – and patients’ lives – will be endangered:

“…intensive care units, operating theatres and other critical units may face life-threatening interruptions. This will be immediately life-threatening for over 2,000 patients relying on electrical devices, including neonates in incubators, and over 1.27 million people will be directly affected by the closure of the hospitals, in addition there will be an increased risk of waterborne disease and outbreaks across the Gaza strip.”

Additionally, 40% of essential medicines in Gaza are completely depleted at Ministry of Health stores in Gaza, including many medicines vital to primary care, oncology and mental health services.

The WHO report highlights MAP’s role in responding some of the above needs:

“Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP- UK) have initiated the procurement of 35 drug items and 13 disposable items worth approximately one million USD, through funding secured by the Humanitarian Fund. A second procurement of 22 drug items, 42 disposable items and 6 items of detergents for infection control, worth $717,259 USD has also been initiated under the MAP Emergency Appeal. More than 800,000 patients will benefit
from this intervention."

You can support MAP’s work by making a donation here.

Outside of hospitals, frontline health workers have also been impeded in their work and in some cases attacked by Israeli forces using live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets. From 30 March to 31 July, two paramedics have been killed and 369 injured. Two health facilities – a health centre for people with disability and a Ministry of Health ambulance station – were also reportedly damaged in and Israeli air strike on 14 July.

MAP is currently calling on the UK Government to take action to protect health workers in Gaza: You can join this campaign by signing and sharing our petition today.

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