Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gaza siege causing major health crisis

"GAZA CITY, 29 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Gaza hospitals are facing a crisis because of a western and Israeli economic boycott, and an Israeli military offensive. The United Nations has warned of an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.

“The siege and closure imposed by Israel have hindered medical aid from Jordan, Qatar, the Red Cross and the EU from reaching us,” said Dr Ma'awiya Hasanein, general manager of the emergency section in the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip.

In contrast to Lebanon, where humanitarian aid needs are generally being met, Gaza has been virtually cut off. With a crippled infrastructure and low and unreliable power and water supplies, its 1.4 million citizens face a daily struggle to survive.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that an increasing number of Palestinians are facing impoverishment.

“WFP food assistance is acting as a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest,” said Arnold Vercken, WFP country director in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). “Any improvement in the current humanitarian situation would only occur if Gaza’s economy were given a firm kick-start.”

Gaza suffers from power outages, a problem not faced by West Bank cities, after Israel bombed Gaza’s main electricity transformers. Hospitals depend on generators that consume large amounts of fuel, which is also in short supply as a result of the recurrent closure of Gaza’s entry points.

“It is very difficult to conduct operations with an alternative supply of electricity that depends on the availability of fuel. We also face difficulties in buying fuel from Israel due to the Israeli military barriers which delay its arrival for days,” Dr Hasanein said.

Power cuts have forced hospitals to perform critical surgeries only and to postpone minor operations.

“A humanitarian and health catastrophe is inevitable if we don’t get fuel,” Gaza Mayor Majed Abu Ramadan told Reuters on Monday."

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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