The Gaza Strip, the small enclave that sees Israel to the north and east of it and that forms part of the occupied Palestine territories (oPt), has been subject to a blockade since 2006, which is facilitated at the border with Egypt. The Hamas controlled area has also more recently been subject to punitive measures by the Palestinian Authority.
While it affects almost all parts of life there is currently a particular urgency to the impact to the health sector which has received a hit when it comes to medicine, medical supplies, lab equipment and blood supply, which is devastating for patients in both accident and emergency situations as well as those suffering from serious diseases.
If medical equipment breaks or becomes obsolete, there is no way to fix it, power cuts from electricity cuts imposed by the PA prevent hospital machines from operating and generators also need spare parts and fuel also lacking in Gaza.
While many patients used to travel outside Gaza for surgery, this option has also diminished for many because of the closure of the Rafah border for long periods of time and exit permits have been in decline.
Past offensives that have resulted in medical facilities being hit has meant that a number of hospitals were irreparable due to construction materials being inadmissible to the country. This has overloaded other facilities. However, as of February 2018, 19 health centres had reportedly closed down because they could not run their electricity generators including major facilities Beit Hanoun Hospital and Al-Durra.
The withholding of salaries by the PA has also hit workers in the health sector. On the brink of collapse, humanitarian actors have taken some action help fund the health sector in Gaza but it needs greater attention from the international community at large.
Focused alleviation of the healthcare crisis
There needs to be a two-fold commitment by the international community:
- An estimated $6.5 million is needed in 2018 to provide emergency fuel to prevent collapse. This requires urgent funding from international donors.
- Political action is required to end the Gaza blockade, which has been ongoing since 2006.
According to theUN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) oPt on 6 February, without support emergency fuel for the most critical services will run out in as little as 10 days. The emergency fuel would enable minimum life-saving health, water and sanitation services.However, for the full functioning of critical services, OCHA estimated the need for $10 million per year and this requires international donor support.
A more sustainable solution however is for the Gaza siege to be completely lifted. This is not only pertinent for the health sector but it is necessary for Gazans to escape poverty by opening the borders and allowing imports and exports to restore its economy and development.
As the occupying state, it is primarily Israel’s responsibility to end the blockade. The siege is a violation of international law. The purpose of the siege has been stated as for reasons of security and to keep out dangerous materials, which could be then used against Israel. However, the measures amount to collective punishment as well as amounting to a breach of fundamental economic and social rights.
Individual states can place pressure on Israel to abide by international law and lift this blockade on Gaza as well as on the PA to refrain from punitive measures.
The siege on Gaza intensified after Hamas gained control of the territory in 2006. Various parts of the international community have had difficulty accepting Hamas as an international political player. However, the party was elected through a democratic process. Therefore, states must accept Hamas as the legitimate government of Gaza and continue relations with it in order to facilitate lasting measures to end the suffering of those who live there.
Oxfam forced to suspend Ebola response in DR Congo following pre-election violence
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to vio..
Oxfam has been forced to suspend its work in the Ebola ravaged areas of Beni and Butembo, due to violent protests following the announcement that people in these areas wont be able to cast their votes for a new president, when the rest of country goes to the polls this Sunday.
Raphael Mbuyi, Oxfams acting Country Director in the DRC said: “This is an extremely worrying situation, as every time the Ebola response has been suspended before weve seen a big spike in the number of new cases. This could mean Ebola spreading to even more people and potentially other countries in the region, putting many more lives at risk.
“However, its not surprising that people who have had their votes taken away at the last minute are frustrated and going to the streets. These people deserve to have their say as well.
“All parties need to find a way for people who have been devastated by Ebola and have lived through decades of violent conflict, to cast their vote.
“Whatever the outcome, there needs to be an end to the years of misery people in this country have had to endure. Just because elections are being held does not mean there will be peace.”
Notes to editors
Spokespeople available for interview in Kinshasa, DRC and in the UK.
For more information or to request an interview, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 (0)1865 472498.
For updates, please follow @Oxfam.
Gaza’s water crisis is ‘a ticking time bomb’
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three..
Reporter Sandy Tolan – In the Middle East’s Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of contested land where three out of four people are refugees, unsafe drinking water has led to a worsening health crisis. Gazan children suffer from diarrhea, kidney disease, stunted growth and impaired IQ.
Twenty years ago, 85 percent of Gazas drinking wells were too contaminated for human consumption. Today, that figure is 97 percent.
Local tap water is too salty to drink because the aquifer below Gaza has been over-pumped so severely that seawater is flowing in. Two-thirds of Gazans get water delivered by truck. Desalinated water is pumped into rooftop tanks via hoses. But the desalinated water is unregulated and because this water has virtually no salt, its prone to fecal contamination. When children drink this water, they get diarrhea.
Repeated bouts of diarrhea can lead to stunting and developmental problems, including a measurable impact on IQ. Late last year a British medical journal found an “alarming magnitude”of stunting among Gazan children.
Children drink and fill water jugs at a mosque in Gaza City.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
“If you really want to change the lives of people, you have to solve the water issue first,” says Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. “Otherwise, you will see a huge collapse of everything in Gaza.”
“It’s a ticking time bomb,” agrees Gidon Bromberg, director of EcoPeace Middle East, based in Tel Aviv. “We have a situation where two million people no longer have access to potable groundwater. When people are drinking unhealthy water … disease is a direct consequence. Should pandemic disease break out in Gaza, people will simply start moving to the fences of Israel and Egypt, and they won’t be moving with stones or with rockets. Theyll be moving with empty buckets, desperately calling out for clean water.”
Assigning blame for the plight of Gazans is not exactly simple. Take the fact that only three percent of Gazas drinking water wells are actually drinkable. Is that because Gazas citrus farmers pumped too much? Or because Israeli agricultural settlers depleted a deep pocket of fresh water before they left Gaza in 2005? Or the simple fact that Gazas population quadrupled in a matter of weeks when towns and villages fell to Israel in 1948?
Food- and water-borne diseases have also been a concern — the power is shut off for 20 hours a day. Are Israel and Egypt to blame for withholding fuel deliveries? Or Israel, for bombing water and sewage infrastructure in Gaza during the 2014 war? Or the fight between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which deprives Gazans of critical medicines? Israels economic blockade of Gaza contributes to worsening poverty, skyrocketing unemployment and child malnutrition, according to several human rights groups.
A peace deal could have connected Gaza to the West Bank, where the vast Mountain Aquifer is big enough to end Gazas water crisis. As it is, there is no peace. The two Palestinian territories are splintered. And Israel has effective control over all the water.
Critics say Israel could solve the whole problem by simply implementing power lines into Gaza. But Israeli officials say they are already sending water to Gaza and to do more would be rewarding Gazas bad actors.
“What’s going on in Gaza is a real catastrophe,” says Ori Shor, spokesperson of the Israeli Water Authority. “The situation there is unbearable. But it’s also frustrating, at least from our point of view, because it’s a bit difficult to help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves. The problem in Gaza is really that Hamas does nothing to try even to solve the problem.”
Shor says Israel is providing more than twice the amount of water they are obligated to provide based on current agreements. But that amount is just a fraction of the clean water Gazans need every day.
Fifteen members of the Nimnim family at home in the Beach refugee camp.
Credit: Abdel Kareem Hanna/The World
As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, humanitarian groups estimate that Gaza will become uninhabitable by 2020 — barely a year from now. To avoid that, international relief agencies and the Palestinian Water Authority are working on a network of big sewage and desalination plants.
Donors have pledged $500 million to build out this network. But one large obstacle remains: On most days, Gaza has electricity for only four hours, which makes running these projects almost impossible.
“At this time, we dont have [enough electricity], but we hope,” says Kamal Abu Moammar, manager of the Southern Gaza Desalination Plant. “Many of our ministers say they will solve this problem. But we don’t know when. Or how.”