UN: Gaza hospital emergency fuel to run out within days

On Wednesday 5 September the UN warned that emergency fuel stocks at critical health facilities in Gaza will run out within days, unless urgent funding is secured from international donors.

Hospitals, clinics, and water and sanitation facilities all only receive 4-5 hours of mains electricity per day as a result of Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis. In order to provide round-the-clock care and essential services, health facilities must therefore rely on backup generators – intended only for emergency use – for up to 20 hours per day. Fuel for these generators, provided by the UN with international funding, is set to run out imminently at some sites.

“If new funds are not received immediately, we will be facing a potentially catastrophic breakdown in essential service delivery,” warned UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory Jamie McGoldrick this week. “Some hospitals are already within a week of closing. The most vulnerable people of Gaza, who rely on public services and have limited income sources, will be the most negatively affected.”

Al Aqsa Hospital in the Middle Area of Gaza only has enough emergency fuel for one week. The UN has said that $4.5 million of funding is required to sustain these services until the end of the year.

Among those whose health and wellbeing are at most imminent risk are new-born babies in the neonatal intensive care units which have been supported by MAP with equipment, medicines and training for a number of years. The lives of other patients on intensive care and those requiring emergency surgeries or dialysis are also endangered. In total more than 4,800 patients require lifesaving or life-sustaining care reliant on constant electricity, including at least 300 who are connected to machines such as ventilators and incubators. Electricity failure to sewage treatment services could also pose a serious public health risk should sewage overflow into public areas.

This deepening crisis comes at a time when Gaza’s health system is dealing with an increased patient load due to the mass casualties arising at the perimeter fence as a result of the Israeli military’s use of force against demonstrators. Since 30 March, 18,739 people have been injured and 162 killed – including three health workers – during the demonstrations. Among the injured are 4,649 with gunshot wounds. Approximately 7,500 elective surgeries have been postponed due to this influx of trauma casualties as well as limited bed capacity and electricity supply. According to Gaza’s Central Drug Store, more than 40% of essential medicines were completely unavailable in Gaza at the end of July.

Gaza has endured more than 11 years of closure termed “a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel's obligations under international humanitarian law” by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Immediate international action to meet growing humanitarian needs in Gaza is essential – particularly in the light of severe aid cuts by the US – as well as pressure from the UK and other governments to bring the unlawful closure and restrictions which violate the right to health of people in Gaza to an end.