How one simple piece of equipment is helping Gaza’s health workers care for at-risk babies

The dedicated staff of neonatal intensive care units in Gaza face numerous challenges as they seek to protect the lives and wellbeing of at-risk new-borns.

The 11-year closure and movement restrictions imposed on Gaza have had a devastating effect on Gaza’s health system, including neonatal intensive care units. In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that health services in Gaza were “on the brink of collapse.” Since then, the situation has only worsened.

According to the WHO, critical public hospitals in Gaza will run out of fuel by the end of December 2018. They warn that if funding for fuel is not secured, the lives of over 1,500 patients will immediately be at risk, including 113 new-born babies on intensive care.

In the midst of these challenges, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has been working since 2008 to provide life support training for doctors, nurses and midwives working in obstetric (maternity) and neonatal units in Gaza, as well as procuring the medicines, disposables and equipment needed to treat at-risk new-borns.

Most recently, MAP purchased a new piece of equipment for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa.

The Infant Formula Preparation Room at Al Shifa Hospital was in critical need of an air conditioner. The small 2m by 4m room was extremely hot, reaching 42-45 °C when the neonatal team turned on the water heaters. The windows and doors had to be kept shut to prevent the entry of dust and germs and avoid infection transmission or contamination, adding to the room’s heat. This made preparing milk formula for the babies in the intensive care units extremely difficult.

Following a request from the Ministry of Health (MoH), in conjunction with the Central Infection Control Committee, MAP purchased an air conditioner for the room. Since its instalment, this simple piece of equipment has ensured that the neonatal team can comfortably and safely prepare milk formula, working in an environment which is a suitable temperature and safer from infection risk.

The neonatal team and the International Cooperation Department, on behalf of the MoH, has extended their sincere thanks to MAP for the cooperation and support.

Many challenges remain, however, to these teams’ diligent work to save the lives of Gaza’s youngest residents. A study by UNRWA found that infant mortality has not declined in Gaza since 2006. In contrast, infant mortality is decreasing in most parts of the world. According to UN OCHA, in Gaza 45% of child deaths under the age of five take place during the earliest stages of life, the neonatal period.

With your help, MAP will continue to stand with them and seek to reach more new-born babies in need.

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