A Palestinian man sells falafel in a makeshift shop lit with a lamp powered by a battery during a power cut in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip January 11, 2017. Picture taken January 11, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
The cabinet decision on Gaza earlier last week makes life even harder for Palestinians in the Strip, and especially hard for those in need of medical care. The electricity cuts will increase disease, while making it more difficult for the health care system to cope, increasing the reliance of hospitals on the insufficient alternative of generators and preventing the sanitation infrastructure from functioning. Thus, the electricity cuts further violate the right to health of the Palestinians.
Israel must not only refrain from cutting power – as several human rights organizations, including Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, the one we work for, have demanded – but should provide the funds and medicine to deal with Gaza’s more hidden crisis, the medication scarcity.
Up until recently, the Palestinian Authority had given the authorities in Gaza $4 million dollars every month to operate 13 government hospitals and 54 primary health centers. In April, the budget provided by Ramallah was reduced to $2.3m., and in May, hospitals and primary health services received only half a million dollars. This huge deficit has already had an immediate impact on Gaza’s most vulnerable.
Patients like 14-year-old Manar Rajeb and 9-yearold Akram Rajeb, sister and brother from Shajaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, who were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at age four months.
“Eighty percent of my daughter’s lungs are ruined, and she suffers from obstruction in the gallbladder [cholecystitis] and in the liver ducts,” father Zaher said when asked to describe the consequences of the medicine shortage. Zaher, whose younger brother died of CF several years ago, is afraid for his children’s lives.
“My daughter cannot get out of bed, and I doubt whether she would be able to survive more than a year in this condition. Akram, who also suffers from constant coughing due to the irregularity of inhalation treatments, is in danger of suffocating,” he adds.
Meanwhile, operating rooms and intensive care units are operating without 270 crucial medical equipment items. Although surgeries are taking place, they are being carried out under woefully inadequate conditions. Earlier this week, PHRI received a call from Al Rantissi Hospital, where a two-year-old in intensive care needed a specific catheter in order to continue treatment. Next week, a delegation of doctors from PHRI aims to go to the Strip to provide medication and equipment, such as this catheter.
While the critical decision to reduce funds is that of the PA , and Hamas has contributed to the current infighting, Israel bears a legal responsibility, not just a moral one, as acknowledged in previous rulings of the High Court of Justice. Although the dominant narrative is that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, in fact it continues to significantly control Gaza’s land crossings, together with Egypt, has total control of Gaza’s airspace, territorial waters, tax policy and revenues, as well as control of the Palestinian population registry, and has imposed on Gaza a prolonged siege.
Through these restrictions on freedom of movement of people, knowledge, medical equipment and building materials as well as successive military operations, Israel has already made it increasingly difficult for Palestinians in Gaza to have even the basic infrastructure needed to potentially lead a healthy life.
At the moment, international organizations, as well as PHRI, are either releasing emergency funds or calling for appeals to ensure patients like Manar and Akram receive the treatment they need. That local organizations are the ones who are having to advocate for the right to health of patients in the Strip is not only insufficient, it’s also outrageous. Now is the time for all duty bearers, Israel included, to live up to their obligations and protect the ill and the infirm.Dana Moss is international advocacy coordinator and Prof. Dani Flic a board member of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.