April 30, 2006

"I Will Die": Gaza on the Verge of a Health Crisis

In between all the headlines about the "civilized" world stopping its aid to the new Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, and behind the rhetoric and the justifications for such immoral actions, average Palestinians are rotting away in their homes and in hospital beds as they await much needed medical supplies.

From cancer patients to those with a common stomach flu, the answer from the hospital is the same: go home, we can't help you, we don't have medicine.

Palestinian health minister Dr. Bassem Naeem made a plea on AlJazeera today to world leaders and Arab and international NGOs to assist the Palestinians in obtaining much needed medical supplies in light of the Israeli closures of major passageways to the Gaza Strip (yes, that piece of land that Israel recently unilaterally 'disengaged' from but which remains under a strong chokehold from the IDF) and a halt in international aid. He warned that the Palestinian territories would face an imminent health crisis if no assistance was provided in the coming days.

Gaza's main hospital did not have what she needed, the Palestinian mother of seven said. Ghaith, 60, had her left foot amputated recently after an illness. She also suffers from chronic blood pressure.

"I will die. Without medicine I will die," Ghaith said as her son Hani, a police officer whose salary is nearly a month overdue, pushed her along a hospital corridor.

A combination of Israel's frequent closures of border crossings into Gaza and reduced foreign aid flows in the wake of the election win of the militant group Hamas in January has worsened humanitarian conditions in the impoverished strip. [link]

Even those countries that have heeded the message from the health minister have faced serious roadblocks to providing much needed emergency aid to the sick in the Gaza Strip. A Jordanian shipment of medical supplies to al-Shifaa Hospital stopped short of being delivered to sick patients as it is being blocked by the Israeli forces from entering the Strip, according to statements made the health minister on AlJazeera this evening.

Al Araj [economy minister] asserted that Israel is using the closure of the crossings and Gaza's humanitarian crisis as leverage against the Palestinian side, adding that international trade agreements have forbidden the use of commercial crossings as negotiations card, but Israel insists on doing so and forcing the passage of certain goods through its Kerem Shalom crossing.

On the other hand, the Minister of Health Basem Naim revealed that his ministry is suffering from a severe shortage of medicines due to the continuous Israeli siege and closure of the Gaza Strip.

Naim asserted that the Ministry of Health needs at least $4 million for its monthly operating costs, adding that the constant closures have disrupted the work of hospitals and primary care centers, as well as hindering the arrival of medical assistance from several countries. [link]

The blockage of emergency medical assistance translates into the deterioration of the health of hundreds of patients in Gaza's hospitals, some of whom have even lost their lives.

Palestinian health officials said the ministry also had to scale back the number of patients it transferred abroad for treatment because of accumulating debts.

"That means I may lose my son," said Musa Bahloul, standing next to his 13-year-old boy, who needs a kidney transplant.

Most Gazans rely on government hospitals and clinics for cheap or free services. When more than half the population is living under the poverty line, not many can afford expensive health services. But even those who may have money to buy medicine, pharmacists say many types of medicine are just not available under the current seige. Health practitioners continue to make appeals to the rest of the world.

But Mazen al-Aloul, chief nurse at Shifa, said employees were depressed about not getting their salaries.

"We suffer serious shortages in everything, but most importantly ... dealing with difficult illnesses like cancer and kidney failure," he said.

"We know America stands with Israel but we urge Europe, the mother of democracy, to lift the siege on our people," he said.
I'm afriad, brother, that the EU has abandoned you, and so has most of the world for that matter. You chose to vote, this is your punishment.

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