Israel causes Gaza health crisis

Imagine living on the Gaza Strip, an outdoor prison 25 miles long and about 5 1/2 miles wide, where 1.7 million Palestinians reside. The sea is contaminated with sewage because four sewage plants have no fuel to run the generators to treat human waste, due to a lack of funds to buy the fuel. The few plants left are keeping this waste from running into the streets of Gaza City, where 600,000 people live. The Rafah border controlled by Egypt has been closed for many months, so no goods, food or medicine can come in. The people cannot leave to get health care, see family or work.

Dr. Mads Gilbert went to Gaza in June to evaluate the health status there and prepare a report for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The U.N. organization runs health clinics and provides food supplements to Gaza.

Dr. Gilbert interviewed health care workers and patients at hospitals and UNRWA clinics, and worked at the Al Shifa Hospital. He visited sewage plants, water stations and hospitals, viewing the lack of equipment and medicine and basic supplies. The hospital staff had not received a paycheck since March. Many of these conditions were similar to what we saw on an Iraq Sanctions Challenge trip during the period of U.S. sanctions on that country.

According to Dr. Gilbert’s report, 90 percent of the drinking water is unfit to drink. More than one-third of the households in Gaza are supplied with running water for six to eight hours only once every four days. (

Food insecurity imposed by the Israeli blockade and the halt of tunnel trade has limited food and other basic needs. The result is that 72.8 percent of the children under the age of 2 have anemia and 31.4 percent have stunted growth due to the lack of food calories for growth and development.

During the present genocidal war against the Palestinian people of Gaza by the Zionist apartheid settler state of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces have killed close to 2,000 people, mostly civilians. About a third of the dead are children.

Amnesty International recently reported on “mounting evidence that the Israel Defense Forces launched apparently deliberate attacks against hospitals and health professionals in Gaza.” Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International, said, “Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes.” (, Aug. 7)

Jaber Khalil Abu Rumileh, who supervises ambulance services in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital, described a July 21 attack: “It was 3 p.m. and I was working in the emergency unit. I heard bombing that shook the hospital. It was a shelling that had hit the fourth floor, the pregnancy and caesarean unit. Then there were a few more hits. People were terrified, patients ran out, doctors could not enter to help the injured and remove the dead.”

Ambulance worker Mohammad Abu Jumiza told AI: “We were on our way back to Nasser hospital [on July 24], driving with the lights and sirens on as always. The ambulance was clearly marked as such. The doctor, nurse and I were all wearing medical uniforms. When we reached the Islamic University, I heard an explosion right next to us and the front and back windows of the car fell out. As I was turning, another missile hit next to us, and then a third one. When the fourth missile hit, I lost control and we crashed, so we ran out of the car and found shelter in a building.”

The genocidal war of ethnic cleansing in Gaza has not stopped the incredible resistance and determination of the Palestinian people to fight for their freedom and their right to their homeland.

Eolis, a retired RN, was on a Viva Palestina/U.S. medical aid trip to Gaza in 2009.