Deaths and injuries continue in Gaza amid deepening health crisis

On Friday 11 January, one Palestinian woman was killed, and at least 25 others injured, including one paramedic, as a result of the use of live fire by Israeli forces at the ongoing “Great March of Return” demonstrations in Gaza.

According to the Ministry of Health (MoH), Amal al-Taramsi, 43, was fatally shot in the head while she was attending a protest east of Gaza City on Friday. On Monday afternoon, Abed al-Raouf Salha, 14, died from the wounds he sustained during the protest. The previous day, Anwar Qudeih, 33, succumbed to an injury he had sustained at a demonstration a few weeks earlier.

Since the widespread civil-society organised demonstrations began on 30 March 2018, more than 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and over 26,000 injured. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 13,840 patients have been referred to hospital emergency departments. Of those hospitalised, 6,174 (45%) suffered gunshot injuries, mainly to their limbs.  An estimated 1,500 have complex limb injuries which will need up to two years of surgery and treatment to recover from, with the help of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)-supported Limb Reconstruction Units.

Essential health services on verge of shutdown as emergency fuel runs out

Gaza’s hospitals, already struggling under a decade of illegal closure, with longstanding shortages of medical supplies, electricity and fuel have been further compounded by the mass trauma casualties.

Compounding the pressures on Gaza’s health system caused by mass casualties and a decade of illegal closure, this week the MoH warned that current shortages of fuel threaten the provision of vital health services.

With limited mains electricity, Gaza’s hospitals are reliant on backup generators to keep services running, fuel for which is quickly running out. On Sunday 13 January, the MoH stated that some health facilities and services would be forced to stop due to an acute fuel crisis, endangering Palestinian patients' lives and wellbeing. UN OCHA estimated that some 57,000 Palestinians in Gaza rely on electrical devices, dialysis machines, or are in intensive care units or need emergency surgeries.

On Sunday Dr Waleed Madi, Director of the UAE Crescent Hospital in Rafah, south Gaza, warned that  vital health services at the hospital, including surgeries performed in the Obstetrics (childbirth and midwifery) and Gynecology Departments, were at imminent risk of shutdown due to lack of generator fuel.

On Tuesday, Jameel Sulaiman, the Director of Beit Hanoun Hospital, north Gaza, warned that his hospital hospital may also close within two days due to fuel shortages. When functional, this hospital provides medical care to over 300,000 people in northern Gaza.

MAP’s team in Gaza has also highlighted that severe medical shortages are negatively affecting Palestinian patients. In December 2018, 42% of essential medicines and 23% 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 44% of medications used to treat auto-immune, genetic and infectious diseases, with 43% of medications used to treat blood diseases and cancer also at critical levels.

With the quality and availability of healthcare in Gaza severely depleted, many patients require referral for treatment at more advanced centres of care in other areas of the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2017, Israel approved just 54% of exit permits for patients referred for treatments outside Gaza. This is the lowest rate on record, and down from 93% approvals in 2012. Last year, restrictions to exit continued, with just 59% of patients’ permits approved in the first half of 2018.

MAP calls on international donors, including the UK, to step in immediately to keep Gaza's health system running. In the long-term, they must also work towards sustainable solutions to the health crisis, including through a lifting of Israel's illegal 11-year closure.

To learn more about the challenges to Gaza’s health system, read our factsheet: ‘Gaza’s humanitarian emergency’.