Monday, December 10, 2007

World Health Organization reports Gaza situation 'intolerable'

"The head of the World Health Organization for the West Bank and Gaza, Dr Ambrogio Manenti, said Monday at a Jerusalem symposium, "There is a situation of physical and mental isolation that has become intolerable."

Manenti was referring to the Israeli closure of all borders of the Gaza Strip since May, and a recent decision two weeks ago to cut off all fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip -- thus preventing emergency generators for hospitals and schools from operating. "We as health professionals have to denounce this situation and the international community cannot tolerate it any longer," said Manenti.

The Israeli cutoff of supplies to the 1.3 million Palestinians living inside the Gaza Strip has been called a form of collective punishment by various human rights groups, leading to the condemnation of the Israeli policy by the groups.

Manenti said that as far as the World Health Organization is concerned, "The situation is under control, there is no outbreak of diseases but because of the social determinants we expect problems very soon." The WHO has had to deny 23% of requests this month, up from a denial rate of 17% last month. That rate has been steadily growing since the Israeli cutoff began in May.

He called on "all parties involved to ensure that in the future all health facilities in Gaza are supplied with the appropriate amount of electricity and fuel."

He compared the Israeli permitting system to a 'Franz Kafka novel' -- a reference to an author known for his creation of convoluted bureaucracies that prevent characters from getting anything done. "

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