Newborn babies are placed in the incubation department at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City
An official at the Palestinian Ministry of Health warned on Sunday that medical services provided by the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip would soon stop due to an ongoing electricity crisis.
Medhat Abbas, director general of the hospital, told a news conference:
Only one week of fuel is available for Al-Shifa Medical Complex, which provides services to half a million patients a year
He added: “This hospital also saved the lives of thousands of Palestinian people injured in the ongoing marches on the security fence.”
He said in a few days “there will be no fuel to run generators used to provide power needed to operate departments and organs of the hospital”.
He warned of the danger of power outages for many departments such as dialysis, intensive care, surgery rooms, outpatient clinics, and sections of radiation.
“The lack of electricity poses a direct threat to the lives of civilians inside the besieged Gaza Strip,” he said.
Abbas added that the donors the Ministry of Health relied on to provide fuel to their hospitals were no longer available.
Home to nearly two million people, the Gaza Strip boasts a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary healthcare centres that account for roughly 95 percent of all health services in the coastal enclave.
Gaza, which continues to groan under Israeli siege, has struggled with severe electricity shortages since 2006.
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report stating that with support from the European Union, it is replenishing stocks of urgently-needed trauma medicines in the besieged Gaza Strip and providing hands-on training for health staff working in frontline Trauma Stabilization Points (TSPs).
Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, WHO’s Head of Office for Gaza and the West Bank, said in the report that life-saving medicines and medical supplies to treat more than 100,000 people have been delivered to hospitals and TSPs, filling critical gaps before supplies rapidly deplete as a result of increasing numbers of casualties in the ongoing protests known as “The Great March of Return,” which began on March 30th.
The report stated “The role of health workers at Trauma Stabilization Points is crucial. Health staff in TSPs are usually the first to see wounded patients, and their capacity to resuscitate, stabilize, and treat patients with serious injuries can significantly increase patients’ chances of survival before they are referred to hospital for further medical care.”
“More than 18,000 people have been injured from 30th March until the beginning of September 2018, due the ongoing protests in Gaza. Of the 18,000, more than 8,600 individuals were managed and directly discharged at TSPs, while almost 9,500 referred by TSP health workers to hospitals for specialized care.”
A Palestinian patient, who was treated at the TSPs, said “When I was shot in the leg, I was taken to the closest trauma stabilization center which was less than five minutes away. Doctors treated my injury and made sure I was stable enough to be taken to hospital. Without this immediate medical care to save my leg, I would have survived the journey to hospital, but my leg could have been permanently damaged.”
The report added “This serves to improve the health system in Gaza as a whole.”
To ensure a comprehensive and coordinated approach to the provision of trauma care in Gaza, WHO has established a dedicated Trauma Working Group with different trauma sub-groups, focusing on areas such as reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation, bring together expertise and knowledge that will ensure quality emergency and trauma care for all injured.
Roughly 400 patients regularly visit the hospital to receive vital medical treatment, including dialysis, the ministry said.
In recent weeks, the ministry has repeatedly warned of the impending collapse of Gaza’s local health sector due to a chronic shortage of fuel needed to keep hospitals’ emergency generators up and running.
Home to some two million people, the Gaza Strip has a total of 13 government-run hospitals and 54 primary healthcare centres, which together account for roughly 95 per cent of all health services in the coastal enclave.
Gaza is suffering from an acute shortage of electricity as a result of the 11-year Israeli imposed siege. Both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority have supported the blockage by imposing further limitations on the Strip.
2 million people are deprived of electricity, vital medical care, and clean water in #Gaza
Responding to the US decision to cancel the $20 million grant allocated to the Palestinian Makassed hospital in occupied Jerusalem, the hospital administration on Saturday that the measure harms live-saving services and confuses political issues with medical and humanitarian ones.
The Hospital admin said in a statement that this decision comes at a time when the hospital is facing a severe financial crisis due to the large cash flow deficit and the outstanding debts of the Palestinian government.
“The hospital’s share of the total US grant is 45 million shekels ($12.5 million), which helps a great deal its various departments and the provision of services for its patients who come from the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and occupied Jerusalem,” it said.
Depriving the hospital of these funds demands an immediate financial intervention from the Palestinian government to help the hospital pay the income tax, the property tax and the pension fund imposed by the Israeli government, said Makassed’s admin.
The statement slammed the US move, which it said makes part of US attempts to pressure the Palestinians to accept its dictates.
US President Donald Trump ordered that $25m earmarked for the medical care of Palestinians in East Jerusalem hospitals be directed elsewhere as part of a review of aid, a State Department official said on Saturday.
Trump called for a review of US assistance to the Palestinians earlier this year to ensure that the funds were being spent in accordance with national interests and were providing value to taxpayers, Reuters reported.
The aid cut is the latest in a number of sanctions by the Trump administration that have stirred the anger of Palestinians, including the recognition of occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
“This is not a formula of peace-building, this is a complete inhuman and immoral action that adopts the Israeli right-wing narrative to target and punish Palestinian citizens to compromise their rights to independence,” AFP cited a Palestinian official as stating.
Human rights groups also condemned such an act of “political blackmail”, which they said goes against the norms of human decency and morality.
Gaza has a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers
Palestinian Health Ministry warned on Sunday of grave consequences of the fuel crisis on hospitals in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“Generators are about to shut in major hospitals in Gaza due to shortage of fuel,” ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement.
“There is no response from all parties so far [to solve the crisis],” he said.
On Tuesday, the ministry warned of collapse of medical services in hospitals in Gaza due to lack of fuel needed to run generators in hospitals.
Home to nearly two million people, the Gaza Strip boasts a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers that account for roughly 95 per cent of all health services in the coastal enclave.
Gaza, which continues to groan under Israeli siege, has struggled with severe electricity shortages since 2006.
GAZA, PALESTINOW.COM — The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, Wednesday urged immediate funding for emergency fuel to Gaza to avoid catastrophic breakdown in essential services.
The Humanitarian Coordinator has written to the donor community requesting immediate support for a program which provides life-saving emergency fuel to operate standby emergency power generators at critical health centers, and water and sanitation facilities in the Gaza Strip. Funds donated thus far in 2018 have been depleted, he said.
A statement by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory said final stocks of emergency fuel will be delivered this week to critical facilities in the Gaza Strip, through the United Nations-Assisted Emergency Fuel Program.
Life-saving services in Gaza currently depend on the UN’s delivery of emergency fuel, due to an energy crisis that leaves the two million Palestinian residents of Gaza, over half of whom are children, with only 4-5 hours of electricity from the grid per day. Based on the current electricity deficit in Gaza, a minimum of $4.5 million is required to sustain these essential services until the end of the year.
“If new funds are not received immediately, we will be facing a potentially catastrophic breakdown in essential service delivery,” said McGoldrick. “Services provided at hospitals, clinics, as well as sewage treatment, water and sanitation facilities will cease. Some hospitals are already within a week of closing. The most vulnerable people of Gaza, who rely on public services and have no income sources, will be the most negatively affected.”
Hospitals in the Gaza Strip only have enough fuel to support service provision just over two weeks, in total, with some facilities at greater risk, putting the lives of hundreds of vulnerable patients at risk each day. These include patients being treated in intensive care, new-born babies in neonatal units, patients requiring emergency surgery, dialysis patients treated for kidney failure, and those needing emergency care, said the statement by OCHA.
More than 4,800 patients in Gaza daily require access to lifesaving or life-sustaining health care that requires a constant supply of electricity. Of these, at least 300 are connected to life-saving medical machines such as ventilators, dialysis machines, incubators and anesthetic machines, where disruption or electricity cut-out puts patients at immediate risk of brain damage or death.
Without fuel, some 300,000 people will potentially be affected by serious public health concerns as sewage could overflow onto streets.
“The situation in Gaza is desperate. Over a decade of blockade and unresolved internal political divisions have stripped people of their rights and left over two-thirds of the population dependent on humanitarian aid,” said McGoldrick. “We can prevent a further slide into catastrophe by ensuring that essential services continue, but we need the international community to step up immediately with support to do so.”
Palestinian ex-prisoner Ahmad Ja’far, who was released from Israeli jails Sunday evening, said that prisoner Kamal Abu Erra, who is sentenced to life imprisonment, is in a critical health condition as he is suffering from an increased breakdown of platelets.
Ja’far said that the Israel Prison Service does not provide any kind of treatment to the Palestinian prisoners suffering from serious health problems and only gives them painkillers.
For example, Ja’far added, prisoner Azmi al-Naffa’ needs an urgent surgery for his injured jaw but the Israel Prison Service denies him treatment.
Ja’far stressed that the condition of sick prisoners, especially long-serving ones, in Israeli jails is extremely tragic, calling for immediate intervention to save their lives.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, Ashraf Qedra, said that there has been no response from donors, to provide fuel for the facilities of the Ministry.
The Ministry has previously issued warnings regarding a shortage of fuel, which threatens the provision of health services to citizens.
During the past years of siege, the Ministry’s facilities in Gaza have experienced several crises due to the shortage of fuel, causing the closure of a number of health facilities and the provision of services.
Israeli settlements and industrial factories sit on the hilltops, looming over the quaint Palestinian homes in the Salfit district. Nestled between Ramallah and Nablus, settlements out number Palestinian villages in Salfit. In most areas, contaminated water and sewage can be seen flowing through the Matwi valley.
Toxic waste, sewage sludge streams, and general garbage dumping by Israel in the West Bank has been happening for decades. Ever since the first settlements were built after the illegal occupation of the West Bank in 1967, Israel has failed to properly manage settlement waste – including dangerous waste from industrial zones.
And Palestinians are paying for it with their lives.
“Every day we learn that someone we know has a disease.” Ammar Barakat, 36, spoke of his family’s life in the village of Burqin, one of the most affected villages in Salfit. His home is just meters away from the stream of cocktailed waste coming from the neighbouring Israeli industrial settlement, Barkan.
Barakat’s brother passed away two years ago from cancer that was discovered too late. He claims that at least 80 people in his village – which has a population of roughly 4,500 – have some form of cancer.
Out on his balcony, with the faint smell of sewage wafting along each of his playful kids, Barakat said with a straight face, “Really, we are living in hell.”
Ammar Barakat and one of his sons sitting on his balcony near the Israeli industrial settlement, Barkan
The only hospital in Salfit
With only 50 beds and 10 resident doctors, the Salfit government hospital serves close to 150,000 Salfit residents. It is packed to the brim almost constantly. Most patients have ailments that can be directly or indirectly linked to the Israeli industrial settlements in the area.
Nidal Tarsha, 26, and Abdulrahman Tamimi, 26, are two resident doctors from the Salfit branch. Working anywhere between 22-32 shifts per month – which usually last well over 12 hours – these young doctors are exhausted. Downing energy drinks to celebrate the rare occasion of having a night off, and wanting to be alert for every minute of it, Tarsha and Abdulraham tell Palestine Monitor some of their daily observations while on the job.
“We see many guys coming in recently with cancer… which is really rare to happen in the young age, 20 to 25,” Tarsha explained. The types of cancers he sees vary from lung to bone, but each case is aggressive. His patients typically come in when it’s too late. “They live for three months after their diagnosis and they die. They just die. They don’t come at the early stages.”
In comparing the health of young people from Salfit with other areas in the West Bank, Tamimi claimed that one or two out of every 10 patients he sees has an illness that can be linked to existence of the Barkan industrial settlement. “The guys from these particular villages [in Salfit] have the same characteristics, the same diseases. You can relate that there is some problem over there.”
Many patients that come to the Salfit hospital are workers in Israeli industrial factories. Whether it be for cancer or for work-related injuries, they’re not coming in to get better, Tarsha explained. Most often he sees people coming in just to get a hospital-issued sick leave report so they can quickly return back to work.
“Because they don’t have any work in the West Bank, they just don’t care about their situation, their injuries.” Tarsha said that Palestinians working for Israeli factories only get three days of sick leave. If they don’t return to work after this allotted time with proof of their sickness, they simply get fired.
The Salfit general hospital usually serves entire families at a time. The two doctors correlated the contaminated water in the area with the spread of infectious diseases, most often contracted through children since their immune systems are weaker.
The situation is worsened when the head of the family works in an Israeli factory and can’t take time off, so untreated illnesses fester and spread faster as the family has to wait until the weekend to be taken to a physician.
Israeli factories on the hilltops of the Barkan industrial settlement
Changing genetic makeup
Current reports on the dangers of living near Israeli industrial zones focus on analyzing the types of toxic wastes factories and settlements emit and only list the potential health risks. Almost no statistical evidence exists to support the claims made by witnesses such as doctors or villagers.
Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, a professor of genetics and molecular and cellular biology at Bethlehem University, published the first academic study on the effects of industrial settlement waste on Palestinians living in Burqin as well as in Idhna, Hebron district.
After collecting blood samples from a control group and a test group from the affected areas, Qumsiyeh and some grad students searched each cell for chromosome breaks or damages to the DNA. The study found a significant number of chromosomal breaks in the cells of residents near industrial zones as compared to the control group.
“The evidence is overwhelming that this cannot be by chance alone that there is a difference between those two samples,” Qumsiyeh told Palestine Monitor. “This is a highly significant finding that indicates that the presence of this industrial settlement is the one causing these damages.”
It takes a while for cells to replicate, Qumsiyeh explained, so sometimes the effects can take years to manifest, but DNA damage or chromosomal breaks increase the chance of infertility, congenital birth defects, and cancer.
Qumsiyeh added that the insults to genetic makeup were found not only in industrial workers, but normal residents living in Burqin and Idhna. This means that the toxic waste is polluting the air and water in these areas, affecting anyone that is simply living near waste sites.
As a prominent human rights activist, Qumsiyeh hopes to use his scientific research to bring justice to Palestinians. “This can be an important tool to challenge Israel in the international courts.”
But for the residents of Burqin, like Barakat and his family, all they ask for is some sort of immediate solution – even if it’s temporary.
After speaking seriously about his household woes with Israeli waste, Barakat looked tired. “Most Palestinians think about freedom from the occupation. All I ask for is fresh air. Until then, I can’t think about anything,” he said incredulously.
Lead photo: An underground pipe, constructed by the people of Burqin, conceals the sewage stream for only a couple of kilometers. It opens back up into the Matwi valley a few meters away from Barakat’s home.