Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Deadly bone infections threaten Palestinians shot by Israeli gunfire

By Yehudit Tzfat - October 27, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza]

Over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza have developed bone infections after being injured by Israeli weapons. The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and lack of necessary medications is further exacerbating this health epidemic. 

According to a recent Medicins Sans Frontieres report, bone infections are on the rise among Palestinians shot by Israel Defense Forces during the Great March of Return protests at the Gaza border. 

The MSF report states: “These infections are adding to the already complicated path to recovery that these injured people must tread. Their serious and complex wounds require months – if not years – of dressing, surgery and physiotherapy. Infections prevent recovery, and to make matters worse, many of them are resistant to antibiotics.”

More than 7,400 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition during the demonstrations in the last year. About half of those injured obtained open fractures, meaning the bone is broken near the wound. 

MSF noted that gunshot wounds are naturally more susceptible to infection and need to be cleaned immediately after the injury occurs. But given the circumstances in Gaza — where the injuries are much more severe — the wound stays exposed for longer making the risk of infection even greater. 

“Unfortunately, for many of our patients who have been shot, the severity and complexity of their wounds – combined with the severe shortage of treatments for them in Gaza – means they have now developed chronic infections,” Aulio Castillo, MSF’s Medical Team Leader in Gaza, said. 

“What’s more, we’re finding in preliminary testing that many of these people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria,” Castillo added.

Compounding the issue further, antibiotic-resistant infections are increasingly prevalent in Gaza. As suggested by MSF, the development of antibiotic-resistant infections is likely due to antibiotics being overused. 

"These infections also are often resistant to the antibiotics commonly used," Mohamed Abu Mghasib from MSF told The New Arab. "Most of the patients we receive require up to three types of antibiotics a day."

Given Israel’s siege on Gaza and restrictions on movement, receiving adequate medical treatment and medications is nearly impossible. 

A new report by the World Health Organisation found that of the 516 items on Gaza’s vital medicines list, almost half had less than a month’s stock remaining in 2018.  And according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the 40 to 50 per cent shortage of medicines in Gaza is because of Israel’s blockade. 

A sliver of hope is that with the Ministry of Health, MSF established the first and only laboratory in Gaza able to analyse bone samples. 

“We have worked with the Ministry of Health to upgrade a laboratory so that it can analyse bone samples, a crucial part of diagnosing correctly these bone infections and knowing which antibiotics will work,” Castillo said.

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