UN warns half of Gaza residents will be starving next month

A report issued by the United Nations in 2017 warned that the Gaza Strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020

UN Relief and Works Agency warned on Monday that one million people in Gaza Strip, half of its residents, would starve if the organisation did not secure $60m in aid for its food programmes.

In a statement the international organisation said: “At a time when Muslims around the world are observing the holy month of Ramadan, often characterised by the festive nature of its Iftars, in Gaza, more than half the population depends on food aid from the international community.”

The statement stressed that unless UNRWA secures “at least an additional $60 million by June, their ability to continue providing food to more than one million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, including some 620,000 abject poor – those who cannot cover their basic food needs and who have to survive on $1.6 per day – and nearly 390,000 absolute poor – those who survive on about $3.5 per day – will be severely challenged.”

UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. From fewer than 80,000 Palestine refugees receiving UNRWA social assistance in Gaza in the year 2000, there are today over one million people who need emergency food assistance without which they cannot get through their day.

Matthias Schmale, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, said: “This is a near ten-fold increase caused by the blockade that lead to the closure of Gaza and its disastrous impact on the local economy, the successive conflicts that razed entire neighbourhoods and public infrastructure to the ground, and the ongoing internal Palestinian political crisis that started in 2007 with the arrival of Hamas to power in Gaza.”

A report issued by the United Nations in 2017 warned that the Gaza Strip would be “uninhabitable” by 2020.

The unemployment rate in Gaza rose to 52 per cent last year, with more than one million of the enclaves two million population dependent on quarterly UNRWA food handouts.

Established in 1949, UNRWA provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees in the blockaded Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Last year, the US State Department said Washington would “no longer commit funding” to the UNRWA.

The US had been UNRWA’s largest contributor by far, providing it with $350 million annually — roughly a quarter of the agency’s overall budget.

This came a month after reports emerged of a secret American report stated that there are only 40,000 Palestinian refugees, noting they are the Palestinians who left their home land in 1948 and remain alive today and not their descendants.

US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is reported to have tried to pressure Jordan to strip more than two million Palestinians of refugee status in a move that aims to end the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

(Source / 13.05.2019)

UN: Health funding gap means 1,700 in Gaza may face amputations

Two Palestinian amputee men sit in the waiting room at the ICRC for Artificial limbs and Polio Center (ALPC) in Gaza City on 25 October, 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

Two Palestinian amputee men sit in the waiting room at the ICRC for Artificial limbs and Polio Center (ALPC) in Gaza City on 25 October, 2018

A lack of health funding in Gaza means 1,700 people shot by Israeli security forces may have to have amputations in the next two years, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for occupied Palestinian territory, told reporters on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

McGoldrick said 29,000 Palestinians had been wounded in protests in the past year, and 7,000 of them had gunshot wounds, mostly in the lower legs.

“You’ve got 1,700 people who are in need of serious, complicated surgeries for them to be able to walk again,” McGoldrick said.

“These are people who have been shot during the demonstrations and who are in need of rehabilitation, and very, very serious and complex bone reconstruction surgery over a two year period before they start to rehabilitate themselves.”

READ: Israel military reinforcements leaving Gaza boundary 

Without those procedures, all these people are at risk of needing an amputation, he said.

The UN is seeking $20 million to fill the gap in health spending.

A lack of funding to the World Food Programme and UNRWA, the UN humanitarian agency that supports Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war of Israel’s founding, also meant there could be an interruption of food supplies for 1 million people.

“If that stops, there is no alternative for people to bring food in from any other sources, because they don’t have purchasing power,” McGoldrick said.

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said a severe lack of funds meant WFP had cut aid for 193,000 people this year in the West Bank and Gaza, with 27,000 getting nothing and the rest getting only $8 per month instead of the usual $10.

Some 2 million Palestinians live in Gaza, the economy of which has suffered years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades as well as recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’ West Bank-based rival.

READ: As far as the UN is concerned, blaming Palestinians is the only available strategy 

People’s prospects were “precarious”, McGoldrick said. Gaza families averaged $4,000 of debt, while salaries averaged $400 per month, but 54 per cent of the population was unemployed.

The health system was impoverished, with unpaid salaries and dilapidated equipment, and many medical professionals had left if they could find opportunities elsewhere.

One teaching hospital was now only teaching trauma medicine, McGoldrick said, but the doctors on the ground did not have the technical ability to carry out the treatment required for the people at risk of amputation.

There have already been 120 amputations, 20 of them in children, in the past year, he said.

(Source / 08.05.2019)

Patients in Need of Specialized Care May Go to Hospitals in Jordan, Egypt

29 APR9:25 AM

Mai Alkaila, the newly appointed Palestinian Minister of Health said Sunday that the government is seeking a replacement option to the specialized care offered in Israel, reported Wafa News.

Last month the Palestinian Ministry of Health stopped transferring patients to Israeli hospitals, this was in response to the Israeli refusal millions of dollars in tax revenues collected on behalf of Palestinians.

Alkaila said that the decision not to send patients to Israel will not affect the care for patients with diseases beyond the expertise of Palestinian health care system, as these patients will potentially be transferred to local private hospitals, or to adjacent countries such as Egypt and Jordan.

She added that the main goal of the Ministry is to localize health services, attract medical practitioners, and provide high quality, safe health care.

(Source / 29.04.2019) 

Israeli hospitals admit to segregating Jewish and Arab women at maternity wards

Baby in an incubator in a maternity ward [MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images]

Baby in an incubator in a maternity ward  

Three Israeli hospitals have admitted for the first time that they segregate Jewish and Arab women giving birth, at the women’s request.

In response to a lawsuit filed against four hospitals, three of them – Hadassah University Hospital on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Haemek Hospital in Afula and Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva – have admitted in February that this is their policy, while the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, which is also included in the lawsuit, denies it.

Kupat Holim Clalit, the health maintenance organization representing Soroka and Haemek, has told the Jerusalem District Court that separating mothers in labour is part of life in Israel’s reality. “Not respecting the wishes of mothers for specific placement creates an ‘enforced communal hospital stay’ when both sides are not interested in this. The purpose of their stay is not to create an artificial melting pot.”

OPINION: The Israeli-led siege is devastating Gaza’s health sector

Hadassah Mount Scopus told the court that “given the differences between various populations, women often request to be in a room with other women from their own community. Hadassah, where possible, accedes to these requests.”

The hospital says that these requests are most common among ultra-Orthodox women, in an attempt to observe the Sabbath and kashrut laws, as well as modesty and other customs. Some Arab women also request to be in different rooms. “This is understandable, given the different languages the women speak,” says the hospital.

The hospital emphasizes that there is no policy or practice of deliberate segregation and that Jewish and Arab women giving birth are usually placed in the same rooms. Hadassah noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s daughter, Noa Roth, was placed in a room with an Arab woman. “There is nothing wrong with acceding to individual requests – this is not discriminatory, and when possible, the request is taken into consideration.”

#ApartheidIsrael

Haaretz first reported the lawsuit filed by four Arab women last year. The women included recordings of conversations with hospital staff and demanded 20,000 shekels ($5,500) in compensation for being insulted by the segregation. In one recording, a nurse is heard supporting the segregation, where there are available rooms. “If there is pressure, we do mix the women, but try to separate them the next day.”

Hadassah maintains the lawsuit is baseless and populist. “The hospital is a beacon of equality and a model of coexistence between Arabs and Jews.” The hospital claims that Hadassah has never received complaints from Arab women giving birth and that professional considerations by doctors should not be interfered with.

Hadassah has numerous Palestinian patients (4,741 in 2015), with many Arab employees at all levels. The hospital says the Health Ministry, which is also charged in the petition as the hospital’s owner, “is aware of its policy to take into consideration the requests of these women, and has never forbidden it.” The hospital adds that it will be severely harmed if the class action suit is successful.

READ: Israel segregates Arab, Jewish women in maternity wards

The lawsuit includes the testimony of a social worker, who had her three children at Mount Scopus. She testified that when giving birth to her third child in 2017, after the segregation was reported, she was put in a room with Arab women only, making her feel “humiliated.”

Hadassah said that she had the right to choose another hospital in the area. “The fact that she kept returning to Hadassah to give birth despite claiming that she was humiliated and insulted shows that her claims are groundless since she was happy with the service she received there. This is a baseless petition,” said the hospital.

Kupat Holim responded: “The insistence on mixed rooms in contrast to the wishes of women giving birth stems from an ideological and contrarian stance, paternalistic in trying to determine what is best and right for these women, disconnected from their own wishes.”

Infant mortality rate among Palestinians in Israel three times higher than Jewish citizens

READ: ow.ly/Hjmr30haWx7

MEMO Infographic by QUAD Business House

(Source / 27.04.2019) 

Medical supplies sent by Miles of Smiles to enter Gaza soon

Miles for Smiles 34 convoy arrives in the besieged Gaza Strip in an effort to distribute aid on 5 June 2018

Head of Miles of Smiles Delegations Dr Essam Yousef announced yesterday that a shipment of medicines and medical supplies will enter the besieged Gaza Strip soon.

In a press release sent to MEMO, Yousef said that this shipment is worth $100 million and is funded by the Indonesian National Committee for Palestinians (KNRP).

“Thanks to KNRP for their generous donations of $100,000 and thanks to others and each participant,” Yousef said.

READ: New Miles of Smiles convoy heading for Gaza next month

He noted that the second shipment of medical supplies is “to follow shortly”, calling for the people who pledged to fund it to “kindly confirm” their contributions in order to pay for the shipment.

This came after an appeal for donations launched by Miles of Smiles in order to buy urgently needed medical supplies and equipment for besieged Gaza, including wheelchairs, which are in urgent need following Israel’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protest along the Gaza-Israel border fence over the past year.

(Source / 23.04.2019) 

Boycotting Israel, PA to send patients to hospitals in Jordan, Egypt

Some of eighteen Palestinians injured during Israel’s weeks-long onslaught on the Gaza Strip are received medical treatment by Turkish Health Ministry medical rescue workers at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv before Turkish military plane airlift the wounded Palestinians to hospitals in Turkey on 13 August 2014 

Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said yesterday that his government had sent delegations to Jordan and Egypt in order to prepare for transferring patients to hospitals abroad, Arab48 reported.

This measure, according to Shtayyeh, is part of his government’s efforts to find alternatives to Israeli hospitals as a result of Israel’s deduction of Palestinian taxes collected on behalf of the PA.

Speaking to Anadolu, the spokesman of the Ministry of Health Osama Al-Najjar said: “The decision is political and it was taken by the Palestinian leadership. It comes in to effect now.”

READ: Israel rejects France’s request to repay Palestine tax revenues

He noted that the annual cost of treating patients in Israeli hospitals is $100 million.

Al-Najjar said that the Palestinian Ministry of Health will transferring patients only to Palestinian hospitals in occupied Jerusalem or to medical centres in Jordan and Egypt.

Israel deducted $138 million from the PA’s tax revenues over claims that this amount is paid to Palestinians prisoners and the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces. As a result, the PA has refused to accept any funds from Israel, saying all the funds owed to it should be transferred without deductions.

(Source / 23.04.2019) 

Israel’s War Crimes Fuel Mental Illness In Gaza

Days Of Palestine [ Report ] – It was a roasting July afternoon and the reverberations of bombs were so continuous her body seemed like it was vibrating in time with them. There was no time to consider whether to don her hijab, what belongings to gather together or even where to seek refuge. Amal blindly followed her neighbours jamming the streets of al-Shujaiea – pushing and shoving in their effort to flee, even without knowing exactly where they would go.

Sweating profusely while her heart raced, Amal attempted to ward off the stinging teargas by covering her nose and mouth with her sleeve. It didn’t quite work, however, and Amal sneezed and coughed, reflexively trying to spit to clear her throat.

That was 2014, during the Israeli military’s last major assault on Gaza. But more than four years later, 46-year-old Amal still suffers fits in which she coughs and compulsively spits; trying to replace the habit with gum-chewing didn’t work. It was a behaviour pattern that was particularly troublesome when Amal was trying to socialise. Despite repeated trips to ear, nose and throat specialists, relief was elusive, and her throat felt raw.

International attention shifts away when a war ends, but its victims live with the consequences – both the visible and invisible – for years after. There are many other Amals in Gaza, still suffering from past Israeli aggressions. The World Health Organization estimates that, following the violence in 2014, 20 percent of Gaza’s population developed mental health problems. 

Likewise, a study of children conducted by Abdelaziz Thabet in 2017 found nearly a third suffered some degree of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD). Exacerbating the effects of violence are the chronic pressure from unemployment and a lack of hope for a better future. 

Today, Palestine leads the Middle East-North Africa region in depression and anxiety disorders, with some estimates suggesting that more than 40 percent of Palestinians suffer clinical depression, making it the highest rate in the world. 

Many sufferers do not seek help due to a failure to recognise mental illness or the stigma associated with psychiatric treatment in a conservative society. Little information is available on the number of suicides or attempts, since officials are concerned about the impact on public morale, and how they would be portrayed by Western media or opposition factions ready to pounce on any sign of leadership failure. 

However, the few statistics available indicate an upward trend. According to one report, there were 226 attempts in 2010, 624 in 2015 and 208 just in the first quarter of 2017. Note that these numbers are likely severely understated, since many attempts are never reported.

Her subconscious remained stuck in a recall loop, reliving those moments among charred bodies and suffocating gas.

 However, as the burden becomes harder to deny, more Gazans gradually are seeking treatment. According to the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, the number of patients referred to the Strip’s sole psychiatric hospital has risen 21 percent since 2016. Likewise, the number of individuals visiting clinics with mental or emotional disturbances rose by 69 percent in the same period.

Amal is one of them. After hearing about the successful treatment of a relative, she eventually sought help from psychologist Sami Owaida. He diagnosed her with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) caused by her experience during the war. Her subconscious remained stuck in a recall loop, reliving those moments among charred bodies and suffocating gas. 

Relief came from a combination of antidepressants, cognitive behavioral therapy and a technique called exposure-and-response prevention (ERP). After identifying the nature and source of her fear, explains Owaida, he helped her overcome it by repeatedly reliving it until she became desensitised to the memories.

“She began therapy in October and today, she is 90 percent better,” he says.

Owaida works with the private Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, established in 1990, which has three branches across the Strip. It supplements the overstretched government system, including the one specialised mental health hospital established to serve the entire Gaza Strip – home to two millions residents. 

It opened in 1970, but mental health services remained dramatically under-resourced and fragmented until 2008, when the government formed a general directorate for psychological treatment. Today, the directorate also runs six community mental health centres. Among its 149 employees are 49 nurses, 14 physicians, 25 psychologists, 17 social workers, 12 pharmacists and 18 rehabilitation specialists. 

After the 2014 Israeli aggression, a day care centre was added.

Collective trauma harms social fabric

According to Samah Jabr, a Jerusalem psychotherapist who heads the mental health unit for the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health, PTSD is the most commonly diagnosed mental illness in Palestine. However, she says, it doesn’t adequately capture the nature of the Palestinian condition. 

For example, “post” implies that the original trauma is over. Yet for Palestinians living under occupation or blockade, the trauma is ongoing and enduring. “There is no ‘post-traumatic’ safety,” says Jabr. Likewise, the traditional definition of “trauma” is too narrow, she says. 

In addition to violence, daily and constant humiliation and objectification are equally toxic over time – for individuals, but also for a society as a whole.

“Just as individual trauma harms the brain tissue of a person, collective trauma harms the integrity of the social fabric – its capacity to foster connections, trust, norms, world views and moral conventions,” Jabr says.

Their actions may seem heroic but, actually, they are a sign of a critical mental-health crisis.

Owaida agrees, pointing to the Great Return March – weekly protests in Gaza that started a year ago on March 30. To date 256 protesters have been killed, and more than 28,000 have been wounded. Many of the martyred or maimed young people went perilously and deliberately close to the border with Israel – seeming to be fearless. 

But Owaida characterises their true motives differently: “Their actions may seem heroic but, actually, they are a sign of a critical mental-health crisis.”

Unfortunately, he says, treatment can only help a limited amount, since it’s not possible for psychiatrists to combat the root problem: the stifling Israeli occupation and blockade.

“I treated a 10-year-old child suffering from bed-wetting (enuresis) and other post-trauma symptoms, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), anxiety and aggression. I worked with him and his parents and teachers in a systematic parallel process,” said Owaida. 

“I was making some headway – until Israel launched its third aggression in 2014 and destroyed his home. Then he became even worse. I needed to start treating him again from scratch.”  

There also are homegrown barriers to mental wellbeing. Cultural beliefs discourage many Palestinians from admitting to family members, friends or even themselves that that they need psychological help. This is particularly true for young women, who fear being labeled “mad” will discourage potential suitors from approaching them. 

Many Gazans instead seek help instead from a local sheikh, or religious scholar, who reads them Quranic verses or healing invocations called ruqya. Owaida dismisses such remedies as “wishful thinking”.

Jabr has found that, unlike in the West with its individualistic culture, Palestinians respond better to approaches such as informal gatherings through which group therapy can be practiced. Like Owaida, she believes the key is to encourage and support remembrance, recognition and mutual solidarity. 

She points to the #WeAreAllMary campaign in support of women living in Jerusalem as an example of a group solidarity action that acts as psychological support as well.

“People from Palestine, and even from outside it, standing together with the oppressed and suffering is therapeutic,” says Jabr. 

Some names of people mentioned in this article have been changed at their request.

(Source / 24.03.2019) 

WHO: Over 97% of Gaza’s Water Below Quality Standards

23 MAR4:22 AM

More than 97% of the water pumped from the coastal aquifer, in the besieged Gaza Strip, does not meet the water quality standards of the World Health Organization (WHO), leading to the depletion of groundwater reserves, with the groundwater level in the coastal aquifer reaching 19 meters below sea level, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) said on Thursday, in a joint press release, on the occasion of World Water Day.

The joint statement said, “The amount of water extracted from the coastal aquifer for domestic use was 178.7 million cubic meters (MCM) in Gaza Strip in 2017; but this quantity is obtained via unsafe pumping that jeopardizes sustainability of the source knowing that the basin sustainable yield should not exceed 50-60 MCM a year.”

In the West Bank, where the Palestinians have been denied access by the Israeli occupation authorities to extraction from the Jordan River since 1967, which was estimated about 250 MCM, the quantity of Water pumped from Palestinian wells in the West Bank in 2017 was 86 MCM from eastern aquifer, western aquifer and north-eastern aquifer.

The statement added, according to Ma’an, that data showed that the percentage of the exploitation of surface and groundwater from available water in the year 2017 was high, with an average of 77%.

With scarce water and Israeli restrictions on access to resources, Palestinian cities are forced to purchase water from the Israeli water company “Mekorot.” In 2017, they purchased 83 MCM, which represented 22% of the water available in Palestine (375 MCM).

Additionally, 23.5 MCM of water were produced from Palestinian springs while 264.5 MCM are pumped from groundwater wells, and 4.0 MCM desalinated drinking water.

PCBS and PWA stressed that 62% of households use an improved drinking water source (piped into dwellings, protected dug well/ protected spring, rainwater, bottled water and public tab), and 95% in the West Bank and 11% in Gaza Strip. The decrease in the Gaza Strip was due to the deterioration in the quality of water extracted from the coastal basin.

As for the type of localities, these percentages were distributed to 58% in urban localities, 94% in rural localities, compared to 44% in refugee camps.

The daily allocation per capita from consumed water for domestic purposes is 88.3 liters/capita/day in Palestine. The West Bank and Gaza Strip had the same rate in 2017.

There are some localities where the average per capita consumption does not exceed 50.4 liters per day, while this rate exceeds 150 liters per day in other localities such as Jericho.

(Source / 23.03.2019) 

‘Headaches, fainting’, Palestinian prisoners suffer effects of Israel jamming devices

Art work used by Palestinians during a protest after Israeli forces stormed into Ofer prison beat prisoners in Ramallah on 23 January 2019 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Art work used by Palestinians during a protest after Israeli forces stormed into Ofer prison and beat prisoners in Ramallah on 23 January 2019

Palestinian prisoners are suffering from “depression, headaches and fainting” as a result of the jamming devices installed at a number of Israeli jails in which they are being detained, they said in a statement.

“The dangerous radiation” omitted by the devices are causing these symptoms, the statement continued, adding they fear this is just “the tip of the iceberg”.

Experts have said the devices can lead to “genetic deformities of human cells and cancer”. Forty prisoners who are battling cancer in Ras Al-Eid prison may have contracted the disease as a result of the devices, they added.

READ: PA pays stipends to martyrs’ families and prisoners 

Concluding their statement, the prisoners placed responsibility for their life on the Israeli occupation and stressed that they would not tone down their protests until the devices are removed.

Last week, Palestinian prisoners said Israel’s prison administration had installed jamming devices at a ward in the Ktz’iot Prison causing Palestinian prisoners to suffer from severe headaches.

The devices produce powerful radiation and stop radio and television signals from penetrating in to the area.

News reports have revealed that the devices were sent to Israel from a Chinese firm Decipro Technology Limited. With 40 such units received by Netline Communications Technologies in Tel Aviv on 29 November 2018.

(Source / 07.03.2019)

Palestinian prosthetics centre, providing limbs for those injured by Israel

Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return 

Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Prosthetic technicians make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Palestinian prosthetic technicians have been working hard to make limbs for Gazans who have lost theirs while taking part in the Great March of Return.

The expertise they have amassed over the years, as a result of Israel’s repeated attacks on the enclave, has left them probably more efficient than their counterparts abroad.

Some 160 of those wounded during the protests have lost limbs, statistics from the Ministry of Health have revealed. This was a result of the occupation’s targeting of demonstrators  with live ammunition and explosives, fragments of which entered their bodies, tearing through their joints and limbs.

READ: Israel closes Gaza border blocking aid transfers

Gaza’s Artificial Limbs and Polio Centre (ALPC) in Gaza City was established in 1974 and operates with the technical support of the International Red Cross. Its Director Lotfi Mousa said that the Gaza Strip has developed an advanced centre which is improving day after day.

It deals with upper and lower limbs, he continued, and provides follow on care, while the technicians need to assess the amputee, taking in to account where the amputation is located and the patient’s fitness levels and weight over a number of months. This provides for a rehabilitation programme to be setup for the patient once the prosthetic limb has been made.

(Source / 06.03.2019)