Gaza health crisis

June 13, 2011 - 0:0

GAZA -- Israeli siege of Gaza continues to disturb living conditions for the entire population of 1.7 million living in the coastal strip. With news that Egypt opened the Rafah border permanently, pressure on Gazans increased. The crossing didn't open properly and Israel still controls all commercial crossings of the territory. In addition, there are severe security measures that still hinder the process of travelling for thousands of Palestinians. Limited access to food, commodities and medications are still in effect. Further confounding the problems is the fact that Palestinian national unity has not achieved the factual results expected by the besieged people. Official Israeli sources, spokespersons and media outlets are seizing on all what they can to say that there is no siege in Gaza while the population of Gaza suffers the repercussions of the external and internal political problems.

Health sector paralyzed
According to Gaza's health bodies and utilities, severe shortages are hitting the sector due to the continued closure. The shortages have led to a reduction in services, including surgeries. A number of patients are on the waiting list for urgent medical operations. According to Gaza's health ministry, the medical storage will soon be depleted, which further endangers the lives of the innocent population.
Around 187 medicines are missing, as well as 190 kinds of medical requirement. In total, 50 percent of Gaza's health and medical storage have evaporated. This shortage is endangering many patients especially those of cancer, and kidney, heart, eyes, nerves and psychological diseases.
This problem has been taking place for years now, since the start of the Israeli siege four years ago. Medical convoys and shipments of medicines brought by International NGOs have temporarily solved the problem in the past. .
International investigation
According to the Lancet Magazine, the Norwegian Government sent two doctors on a health mission to Gaza in April 2011 to examine Gaza's chronic shortage of medicines. The same magazine reported of a similar mission sent in 2009, after the war, and concluded similar results to the recent one.
The report says, "" The Gaza Strip still has a persistent drug shortage, despite some recent Israeli and Egyptian talks about easing the strict blockade that has left this crowded enclave isolated since July, 2007. A political rift between the Hamas-run government of Gaza and Fatah officials in the West Bank hinders communication and coordination between the Palestinian health ministries -- adding to the hardships already faced by patients in Gaza.""
It also added that Norwegian physicians Tone Hegna and Åse Vikanes followed the delivery of 200 pallets of medical supplies from Ramallah to Gaza in early February 2011. They confirmed that many drugs and basic disposables remain in short supply, and that a bad situation is made worse by inadequate storage, transport and incineration facilities.
People close to death
The health crisis in the Strip has increased the suffering of people, with some nearing death.
Anwar Nahid, 18, suffers from early diabetes. Her illness is rare at her age. The prescribed medications are missed such as insulin injections. The absence of the medications is affecting her severely, and blurred her vision.
""I'm sick with this disease for five years now. My father is jobless and I have eight siblings. In many occasions, I find it hard to find the medicines I need. If I do, it is expensive and hard to obtain. My doctors are asking me to go for a specific food for diet purposes. But, I can't afford to bring fruits and some vegetables as the prices are really high. I hope my father works again and I get my medications,"" said Anwar.
Her mother added that Anwar has fainted many times and the doctors said she has entered a dangerous level. Anwar was injured in a car accident and her illness makes her treatment harder, as diabetes slow the healing process. Doctors warn her of a potential stroke because of the effect of the diabetes on her blood.
Palestinian journalist Sameh A. Habeeb is residing in Gaza. He is also editor of The Palestine Telgraph.
Photo: Palestinian pharmacist Dr. Fadi Abu Teama, holds an empty box of medicine at a medicine supply storage room of the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza city, Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (AP photo)