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Occupied Palestinian Territories - Israel: Gaza health system has collapsed

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Emergency | Health | Palestine | PUBLISHED ON November 20th 2023
Front page of the new HI report "Attacks on healthcare and Impacts on Physical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services in Gaza"

© HI

HI has released a new report, “Attacks on healthcare and Impacts on Physical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services in Gaza” showing that the healthcare system in Gaza has completely collapsed following massive and systematic bombing by Israeli forces. HI is calling for an immediate ceasefire and for the protection of health facilities and personnel by all parties to the conflict.

> Download the complete report in PDF

Since October 7 and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, more than 11.000 people were killed and 27.000 injured in Gaza by continuous bombing by Israeli forces. Israel’s retaliatory response come after a massive attack launched by Hamas on October 7, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking hostage 240 Israelis and foreign nationals.

Massive and systematic bombing

The massive and systematic bombing in Gaza by Israeli forces has had a devastating impact on the healthcare system and medical personnel in Gaza:

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that 22 out of 36 hospitals are out of service, with only one hospital still operating in the north of Gaza (as of November 14).

According to the World Health Organization, at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have been killed in 137 “attacks on health care” in Gaza as of November 12.

“Injured and sick people are at risk as they cannot access anymore regular health services, due to the closure of services and the continuous bombing. At the moment, in northern Gaza, doctors are only able to offer patients the most basic assistance and conduct only emergency lifesaving surgeries, often under flashlights or telephone torches and with a minimal number of anaesthetics and painkillers.”

Danila Zizi, HI Country Director for Occupied Palestinian Territories

Black out, shortage and their humanitarian consequences

The total blackout for 34 consecutive days and shortage of fuel, potable water, medicines, supplies, added to the heavy bombardments on hospitals, force medical staff to discontinue services or to shut down wards or entire departments.

Due to fuel shortage, Gaza’s health facilities cannot run generators to deliver lifesaving healthcare, ambulances cannot run, water desalination plants cannot function, as well as for garbage disposal, etc.

Since 7 October, Gaza Strip has been cut off from water and electricity networks, while all crossings for import of fuel and goods have been closed, leaving Gaza’s population without the most basic needs for survival.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 40 persons with injuries died due to the complexity of their injuries and infection of wounds. Those people would have been treated and would have survived in normal times.

Rehabilitation and mental health

Systematic bombing and shelling also cause significant damage to rehabilitation and mental health infrastructure:

According to the Rehabilitation Task Force (RTF) in Gaza, two rehabilitation hospitals were severely damaged, forcing them to freeze their activities.

The only psychiatric hospital in Gaza Strip serving all the governorates was bombed by Israeli forces.

“At the Indonesian Hospital, there were around six or seven rehabilitation specialists, but tragically, some were killed during bombings, some lost their homes, and others are still unable to reach hospitals due to ongoing bombardments, destroyed infrastructure, and a shortage of fuel to move. This means only one or two specialists can report to work, but the number of injured people is too high to accommodate.”

Ahmad (alias), physiotherapist displaced from the North, currently serving in a hospital in the South, Rafah, Gaza

This dramatic impact on the rehabilitation system arrives as needs for functional rehabilitation are skyrocketing due to the number of injured people. Rehabilitation helps people to maintain or regain mobility and helps to avoid permanent impairment.

Even before the ongoing violence, 58% of the adult Palestinian population exhibited symptoms consistent with depression according to the World health Organisation. well-being index. In addition, about 7% of adults in West Bank & Gaza screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (West Bank and Gaza - Palestinians' Psychological Conditions Survey 2022 - World Bank Report generated on: April 3, 2023).

HI is calling on all parties to the conflict to stop the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas such as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. HI is also supporting #CeasefireNow, an open call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and further loss of innocent lives and ensure humanitarian aid can be delivered rapidly and safely.

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