Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) has called on the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide Gaza with the equipment it urgently needs to combat COVID-19, including basic antiseptics, intensive care beds, and ventilators.
PHRI’s further urged COGAT and the MoH to find alternatives for patients in Gaza who need critical surgery or treatment that is currently unavailable in the Strip and who, as a result of restrictions placed to limit the spread of COVID-19, are unable to leave to access this treatment elsewhere.
There are around 2,700 Gazans in quarantine, including 1,271 in 20 isolation units which were converted from schools, hotels and hospitals. As of today, 99 people have been tested and 2 have been tested as positive.
Yet even prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Gazan healthcare system has been unable to meet the needs of the local population. The fragmentation between Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem has been coupled with continuous obstacles that Israel imposes on freedom of movement of patients, medical equipment, medications, and healthcare personnel. As a result, many treatments are unavailable while local healthcare staff lacks up-to-date medical knowledge.
Meanwhile, the equipment required by coronavirus patients are drastically lacking, with only roughly 70 Intensive care beds, while healthcare staff is missing masks and protective suits. Although a field hospital is being established, with 40-50 beds, it will only be able to intake up to 100 patients.
This is compounded by poor public health conditions: a water and electricity crisis, high poverty rates and high population density, which foretell inabilities to both maintain sanitary conditions and practice isolation. The World Health Organization (WHO) has already issued a call for donor assistance to secure basic needs and PHRI is working alongside the WHO and the Gazan MoH to try and meet these needs.
Aside from the challenges facing Gaza in a potential outbreak are the needs of current patients. Gaza’s healthcare needs are so great that, in 2018, according to the World Health Organization, over 9,000 patients had to leave the Strip for treatment, as local hospitals were not able to provide them with appropriate treatment.
Roughly one-quarter of these patients were cancer patients. These patients are now unable to exit Gaza following restrictions placed by Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Israel, as an effective occupier in Gaza, must ensure that it takes “prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics”. Moreover, it must ensure that, should medical equipment and supplies be lacking, that the population receives the needed treatments.
PHRI requests that the international community call on the Israeli MoH and the Ministry of Defense to:
- Ensure that the Gaza MoH receives the basic equipment it needs to combat the spread of the disease
- Dialogue with the MoH in Gaza for patients in Gaza who require non-elective surgery and treatments that are unavailable in Gaza.
For further information, please contact:
International Advocacy Coordinator
Cell: 054 575 3426
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel