Publish dateTuesday 26 March 2024 - 10:38
Story Code : 287870
Medical crisis in Gaza hospitals at ‘unimaginable’ level, aid agencies say
The medical situation in Gaza’s hospitals has reached an “unimaginable” state of crisis in which large open wounds are being left untreated and medical staff are facing chronic shortages of the most basic medical items, including surgical gauze and material to pin fractures.
Afghan Voice Agency (AVA) - Monitoring: The description of conditions was delivered by an emergency medical team organized by three aid groups that spent two weeks carrying out surgeries and other care at the European hospital near Khan Younis.
There has been heavy fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the southern city since the start of the year.
The warning on the dire medical conditions came as Israel announced it would stop working with the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) in the Gaza Strip, which has supported Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Accusing the aid agency of perpetuating conflict, David Mencer, an Israeli spokesperson, said: “UNRWA are part of the problem, and we will now stop working with them. We are actively phasing out the use of Unrwa because they perpetuate the conflict rather than try and alleviate the conflict.”
Replacing or sidelining UNRWA has long been an objective of Israel’s political right.
Describing their visit to the Khan Younis hospital, the emergency medical team statement said healthcare workers had been forced to evacuate or were unable to access the hospital.
It said Israeli restrictions had led to shortages of medical supplies, including basics such as gauze and plates and screws used to stabilize broken bones.
Vital medical supplies had been caught up in Israel’s restriction of aid to Gaza, which had brought large parts of the territory to the brink of a “man-made famine”, senior UN officials said last week.
The statement was released as Israeli forces continued to assault two major Gaza hospitals, including al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, which has been the focus of recent heavy clashes after Israeli forces said Hamas had tried to entrench itself in the hospital buildings.
The visiting surgeons “reported large infected open wounds on patients and having to administer emergency nutritional supplies to patients as the lack of food was jeopardizing patient treatment”.
Dr Konstantina Ilia Karydi, an anesthetist who is a member of the visiting emergency medical team, which includes Medical Aid for Palestinians, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, described harrowing scenes at the European hospital.
“The situation is unimaginable,” said Karydi. “This hospital had an original capacity of just 200 beds, and at the moment it has expanded to 1,000 beds.
“There are around 22,000 people that have been displaced from other parts of Gaza sheltering in the corridors and in tents inside the hospital, because people feel that it’s safer to be here than anywhere else.”
While the team’s surgeons said they had completed successful complex vascular and orthopedic surgeries on patients, some of the patients later died due to infections in the hospitals and the inability to provide post-operative care, a problem that has plagued trauma care in Gaza for months.
Karydi’s account was echoed by Arvind Das, the IRC’s Gaza team leader. “The situation we’re facing is beyond comprehension. Continuous Israeli military operations near hospitals are making an already tense situation even worse for those seeking shelter or medical help, pushing the healthcare system to the brink of collapse.
“Despite the relentless efforts of our medical teams, the infrastructure necessary to deliver optimal medical care has been severely compromised by bombing, stringent restrictions on the entry of aid including medical supplies, and the overwhelming surge in needs,” Das said.
“We’re doing everything we can, navigating through critical shortages and working with very limited resources, to save lives amidst this dire situation.”
International aid officials say the entire population of the Gaza Strip 2.3 million people is suffering from food insecurity and that famine is imminent in the north. Only 12 hospitals are partly functioning, with no fully functioning hospitals within the Palestinian territory.
More than 32,000 people have been killed in the territory, and more than 74,000 wounded, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its counts. It says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.
The statement from the three NGOs follows a warning this month by a World Health Organization team of the dire conditions in two hospitals it visited.
A WHO team found “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed” during a visit to al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals in northern Gaza, according to the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus./Guardian
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