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Medical Care in Gaza Under Siege


By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 17 June 2011

Medical Care in Gaza Under Siege - by Stephen Lendman

Under siege, Israel continues to strangle Gaza. Poverty and unemployment are extremely high. Over 70% of the population requires humanitarian aid. Virtually everything is in short supply. Except for minimal amounts of some fruits, vegetables and flowers, exports are prohibited. Israel prevents access by sea and air. It's blockade is illegal but persists because Western powers and regional neighbors allow it.

Egypt's recent Rafah Crossing opening falls short of meeting Gaza's needs. On June 16, Gaza Gateway listed 10 reason why:

Crossings to Egypt remain limited, several hundred daily while 10,000 wish to travel. Moreover, it's for designated people only, not goods. Those allowed enter through Kerem Shalom Crossing.

The situation on both sides of the border is uncertain and unstable, including whether or not the opening will continue and under what conditions.

Rafah doesn't enable travel or movement of goods to the West Bank. Moreover, Gaza ID holders can't enter through Jordan.

As explained above, most exports are prohibited.

Except for approved international organization projects, importing construction materials is prohibited.

Gazans needing unavailable medical care, are restricted in getting it in Egypt, the West Bank or East Jerusalem. Moreover, many can't make a long trip.

It's deeply troubling because Gaza's hospitals and other medical facilities are running out of medications and vital supplies, requiring cancellations or postponement of dozens of needed surgeries and other treatment. In fact, medications and other medical necessities haven't been supplied since February.

According to Gaza's Ministry of Health, 178 medications and 123 categories of medical supplies are exhausted. Moreover, 69 other medications and 70 types of supplies will run out in three months.

As a result, emergency measures have been taken, including canceling or suspending pediatric, ophthalmological, cardiac catheterization, endoscopic, urological, orthopedic, and other surgeries, as well as dental care, outpatient services, primary care, lab tests, medical imaging, children's and women's services, occupational health, and more.

In fact, a growing crisis threatens all Gazans needing care. Hospitals and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) report growing shortages and unavailability of many medications and supplies for ICUs, premature infant nurseries, operating rooms, anesthesia and recovery, emergency facilities, cardiac catheterization, hematology, oncology, nephritic diseases, and pediatrics.

Gaza City's Ophthalmology Hospital director said eight surgeries in the past two days were postponed and others suspended for months. On June 12, Ramallah's Ministry of Health Public Relations and Information Department Director-General, Dr. Omar al-Nasser, said the Egyptian Medical Association would supply 19 vital medications soon.

He also said arrangements would be coordinated with Israel to provide other medications and supplies from its own Ramallah and Nablus warehouses shortly, including 81 medications, surgical tools, and 130 other items.

Under siege, conditions are very uncertain with no assurance Israel or Egypt will accommodate vital needs, including life or death ones.

A Final Comment

On June 14, Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), committed to Palestinian liberation, emailed followers an update on Freedom Flotilla II, a 15 ship convoy with over 1,500 activists sailing in late June to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"Unfortunately and incredibly," she said, "Israel is threatening to" interdict it with "even greater violence" than against Freedom Flotilla I in May 2010, slaughtering nine or more activists and injuring dozens more.

This time "Israel's threats include the use of snipers and canine units. Even more deplorable, world leaders, rather than demanding that Israel halt its provocative behavior towards us and refrain from again attacking unarmed civilians, have called the Flotilla initiative a provocation and have asked countries....to prevent us from sailing."

Nonetheless, "(w)e are determined to sail to Gaza. Our cause is just and our means are transparent. (We present no) imminent threat to Israel nor do we aim to contribute to (an anti-Israeli) war....thus eliminating any claim by Israel to self-defense....We will - and must - continue to sail until the illegal blockade....is ended and Palestinians have the same human and national rights those of us sailing enjoy."

Four supportive women Nobel Peace laureates, including Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Shirin Ebadi, and Rigoberta Menchu Tum, sent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon an open letter asking him to:

"support the people of Gaza with two key actions. First, by appointing a representative to inspect and seal the cargo of the (flotilla's) boats," providing proof it contains humanitarian supplies, and to "call on all governments to support the (flotilla's) safe passage...."

Sadly, Ban is an imperial tool, serving Western/Israeli interests. As a result, he'll do more to discourage the initiative than support it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

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