Health Crisis in Gaza

May 15, 2006

Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip and international sanctions against the Palestinian Authority have left the Palestinian health care system on the verge of collapse.

Hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza have run out of medical supplies and drugs forcing the hospitals to cut back on life-saving medical treatments. In the Gaza strip the shortages have been severe.

For example, Gaza's main hospital, Al Shifa, has cut back on dialysis treatment for the 160 outpatients, including 24 children, from three times to twice a week. More cut backs are expected soon unless new medical supplies arrive. As a result of these cuts, four dialysis patients have already died over the past three weeks.

The situation is similar throughout the hospital. Drugs of all kinds, including drugs for chemotherapy, surgical drugs such as atropine, adrenaline, heparin and lidocaine, and even basic antibiotics are in short supply forcing cuts in treatment. Al Shifa's general director, Dr. Ibrahim al-Habbash, says the hospital can no longer provide chemotherapy for many forms of cancer.

This health care crisis is a direct result of the U.S.-Israeli siege of Palestine. Since the election of the new Palestinian government, Israel has illegally suspended the transfer of $55 million/month in tax revenues owned to the Palestinian Authority (PA). The U.S., Canada and other western powers have cut off aid to the PA.

In addition to the financial crisis facing the Palestinian health care system, Israel is preventing the shipment of medical supplies into Gaza. Since January 1, the Karni passage, the main supply route from Israel to Gaza, has been closed half of the time by the Israeli military. Shipments into the Gaza are down from 150/day to 23/day.

A recent report by Physicians for Human Rights/Israel, says that the "Lack of funding for this system will lead to the deaths of thousands of people in the short term and extensive morbidity in the long term."