When I recently visited some of the major hospitals in Gaza I was told that life-saving medicines and equipment were not allowed into the Strip due to the Israeli and Egyptian led blockade. These are the results:
Arafat Hamdona, 20, has been confined to the cancer unit of al-Shifa, Gaza’s primary hospital, since he was diagnosed with maxillary skin tumors in June 2008. Red lesions protrude from his face, his features are distorted and his eyes swollen shut.
In April, Arafat was permitted to travel to Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem where he received three series of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment. He was scheduled to return for further treatment, but has not been granted permission by the Israeli authorities to leave Gaza.
“He is only given pain killers,” said Arafat’s father, Faraj Hamdona, explaining that it is all al-Shifa has to offer.
According to a July 2009 report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Jerusalem, Gaza doctors and nurses do not have the medical equipment to respond to the health needs of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip.
Medical equipment is often broken, lacking spare parts, or outdated.
WHO attributes the dismal state of Gaza’s healthcare system to the Israeli blockade of the territory, tightened in June 2007 after Hamas seized control. The poor organization of maintenance services in Gaza compounds the problem, reports WHO.