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Medics struggle to help the injured in Gaza amid power cuts and water shortage

August 07, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [Gaza] [Operation Protective Edge]

A Palestinian child receiving medical care in Gaza | (Flickr) Zoriah
Doctor Mustafa Barghouti warns of spreadable diseases as the humanitarian crisis deepens on the Gaza Strip.

Medics struggle to help the residents of Gaza amid power cuts and water shortage as the 72-hour ceasefire enters its third day.

Doctor Mustafa Barghouti, who visited Gaza also during the wars in 2008-2009 and 2012, said the current level of demolition was worse than ever. He and a team of Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) workers crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday, a day before the latest ceasefire came into effect.

“Israel has completely destroyed whole neighborhoods,” the doctor said. “So many innocent people have been killed.”

At least 1,867 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have died since the fighting started almost four weeks ago. Three Israeli civilians and 64 soldiers have lost their lives, according to Al Jazeera.

“No sanitary system whatsoever”

According to Barghouti, more than 5,000 homes in the Gaza Strip have been demolished completely and 10,000 partially.

More than half a million of Gazans have been displaced during the war. Barghouti, who visited the Al-Shifa hospital on Tuesday, said the area around it has turned into a refugee camp, with residents from Beit Hanoun and Shaja’ia neighborhoods seeking refuge there.

“People have created shelters from the hospital sheets as there are not enough tents,” he added.

As a number of water pipes have also been destroyed, people have no possibility to wash themselves or their children. Lack of hygiene is likely to spread different diseases.

Barghouti said he has already seen skin infections, like scabies, and even cases of meningitis, which means life-threatening inflammation of the spinal cord.

“Even before this conflict, it was hard to find drinking water in Gaza. In some places the water is now so salty that it causes skin problems,” the doctor reported.

Hospitals running on generators

About 80% of the residents of Gaza have had four hours of electricity per day after Israeli missiles destroyed the only power station on the besieged enclave. The lack of electricity severely harms the water supply and sewage systems.
According to Al Jazeera, it could take at least a year to reconstruct the power station. While hospitals have been forced to operate on generators, power shortage could be especially disastrous for cardiac and dialysis patients as well as babies in incubators.

Some patients are turned away as overcrowded hospitals have no space to accommodate all the needy. This is the case of Sali Saker, 20, who was staying at a house for disabled women when Israel bombarded the building and instantly killed two people. Suffering from a broken shoulder, Saker is now being treated at her home, Barghouti said.

According to the doctor, at least 19 health workers have been killed and 36 ambulances attacked during the conflict. Several hospitals have been bombed, one of them to destruction. In Rafah, one hospital was forced to evacuate.

In total, 120 medics have been attacked.

“There was no safe place in Gaza,” Barghouti said. “One could be killed anywhere.”

Refugees for the second time

Even in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, Barghouti says the solidarity he has witnessed in Gaza offers at least a glimpse of hope. For example, he saw a 2-year-old girl called Amira being treated for severe injuries. Her parents had died in the bombing, leaving Amira alone with her 4-month-old sister Lina.

Yet, three other women in the same room promised altogether they would take care of the young sisters. One of the women had lost her own child in the conflict.

In Barghouti’s opinion, the only way forward is that the Palestinian Authority “immediately” signs the Rome Statute and takes Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“The international community should judge Israel’s actions,” he said.

For some Palestinians, the recent war has been only the latest phase in a decades-old circle of violence. At one of the shelters for the displaced, Barghouti met with an 82-year-old woman and her 12-year-old granddaughter. The grandmother recalled how her family had to flee from the once Arab village of Bir Seb’a (Be’er Sheva in Hebrew) after the Israeli forces conquered it in 1948.

Now, more than sixty years later, she and her relatives have once again become refugees. But in Gaza, there are few places left to escape to.

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