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ICRC supplies cross into Gaza

22-01-2008 Interview

On the day Israel allowed a one-day resumption of supplies to the Gaza Strip, ICRC health coordinator Eileen Daly speaks of the threats facing the civilian population because of the ban on goods entering the territory. Some essential drugs and other items were able to cross into Gaza in the afternoon of 22 January.

   

  ©ICRC    
 
Eileen Daly, ICRC health coordinator in Gaza    
     On 22 January, the Israeli government opened crossing points for fuel shipments and for essential humanitarian goods. What is the impact on the situation in Gaza?  

This is certainly a positi ve step by the Israeli government. However, considering the serious situation in the Gaza Strip, the supply of essential humanitarian relief must be secured in the long term to prevent more hardship. People in Gaza are facing an extremely difficult situation after months of import restrictions. Key infrastructure – including medical facilities as well as water and sanitation facilities – is close to collapse.

 What is the situation in Gaza's hospitals?  

There is an acute shortage of practically everything needed to ensure that hospitals can function normally. For instance, Shifa Hospital, Naser Paediatric Hospital and Central Medical Stores in Gaza City, as well as the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, urgently need fuel. At the ICRC's request, the United Nations (UNRWA) delivered 12,700 litres, enough to last just two days. Of the 11 hospitals monitored by the ICRC, only two have more than six days'worth of fuel left.

The hospitals are cold, as heating units have been switched off to conserve fuel. The gas needed to cook meals for patients and staff is running low. Because of limited transport, medical personnel are struggling to get to work. Fuel is also needed for hospital laundries.

    

 Can the hospitals remain open in view of these problems?  

   
  ©Reuters / M. Salem    
 
A Palestinian woman sits next to her sick daughter at al-Nasser hospital for children in Gaza, 21.01.2008    
     

Four hospitals in Gaza city, including the main paediatric hospital in the Gaza strip, are on the brink of closure. The psychiatric hospital (39 beds) has no power; the eye hospital (31 beds) and Nasser paediatric hospital (151 beds) are treating only emergency cases.

At nightfall on 21 January, these three hospitals were without electric light other than the infant and paediatric intensive care units at the paediatric hospital, thanks to a small generator. Al Dorra paediatric hospital (79 beds) is without power except for the intensive care unit.

As a result, hospitals are treating only life saving cases – all diagnostic and elective surgery is cancelled. They are pooling all their fuel for the main generator to allow them to run essential services such as operating theatres, coronary care, intensive care, special care for babies, dialysis and the blood bank.

 What about the supply of drugs to Gaza's hospitals?  

More than a fifth of the 470 essential drugs have run out, as well as a quarter of the 600 essential disposable items. Three-month stocks of these items are con siderably reduced as well.

The drugs lacking include those for anaesthesia as well as silver sulfadiazine, which is crucial for the treatment of the increasing number of patients with burns. These and other essential drugs, as well as disposable items, are on a truck waiting to cross at Kerem Shalom from Israel into Gaza (Editor's note: the truck crossed late afternoon on 22 January).

 Are you aware of any patients having lost their lives due to such dire circumstances?  

We know of one ventilated patient who died at Ahli Arab hospital during the process of switching over from the main power plant to the generator.