OPT: Health situation in Gaza, 21Jan 2008


The ongoing and aggravating crisis in the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) continues to cause social and economic distress on the daily life of Palestinians. The situation is particularly severe in Gaza Strip where strict closures recently imposed by the Israeli authorities are seriously affecting the production of electricity at the Gaza Power Plant due to lack of fuel. If continues, this shortage is already having a major impact on all sectors during the next days, particularly the health sector. Whilst the frequency of electricity cuts and limited power available to run hospital generators is extremely serious for all hospital services, its impact is particularly felt in intensive care units, operation theatres and emergency rooms.

On the 17th of January, the Israeli Minister of Defence decided to impose a complete closure on Gaza Strip. This includes the passage for all goods and fuel. The Israeli authorities claim that this measure is a response to continuous firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel. As a result, no basic goods have been entering Gaza including medical supplies and fuel required to operate the Gaza power plant.

Electricity and Fuel Supply

The total need of electricity in Gaza is 230-250 megawatt per day. The Gaza power plant has stopped functioning at 8:00 pm on January 20th. As of today, the 21st of January, Gaza Strip has to rely on only two out of three sources of electricity provide a total of 137 megawatt: 120(1) megawatt from the Israeli company and 17 megawatt from the Egyptian company. The provision of electricity is interrupted on an average of 12 hours per day in the entire Gaza Strip.

Currently, three out of the 11 MoH hospitals are facing severe shortages of fuel. Both, the Gaza European Hospital and Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis have 18,750 litres out of the 152,000 litres storage capacity. The two hospitals have declared a 'state of emergency' and stopped activities in all the departments except for emergency cases and in the Intensive Care Units (ICU) during the hours of the cut. In the 12 hours of electricity work will be resumed in all departments except the operation room that has to be backed up by emergency generators. The Gaza Paediatrics' hospital has 600 litres of fuel out of its 10,000 litres storage capacity. The hospital is considering to transfer critical patients to other hospitals that still have fuel on stock.

Shifa hospital has three generators and fuel tanks to supply three different parts and has currently 15,700 litres fuel on stock. The fuel availability in one tank is 2,500 litres, supplying the neonatal, obstetric, gynaecology and dead body unit. This tank will be depleted within two days. A second tank that supplies the oxygen extractor unit, oncology unit, laundry rooms and boilers reached a level of 200 litres on January 20, only sufficient for run these units for another four hours. However, these three units continue functioning as UNRWA has provided the hospital with 6,500 litres of fuel for running the generator.

The Directorate of the Aqsa Martyrs Hospital has declared that by tomorrow working hours will be reduced to four per day to decrease the consumption of the available fuel.

During the electricity cuts the provision of diagnostic services and dental services has to stop in 26 MoH Primary Health Care facilities (PHC) out of 56 that do not have generators in addition to 6 PHC facilities that have 0 stock of fuel for their generators (0 litres out of 5,400 litres storage capacity). Another 16 PHC facilities will also have to stop the provision of these services during the electricity outage as their stock of fuel will be depleted within few days (currently status 4,570 litres out of the 18,700 litres storage capacity). The provision of immunization service is maintained only under difficulties in those clinics that face electricity and fuel shortages.

The stock of fuel at the Central Drug Stores (CDS) is sufficient to operate the stores for only one day but stopped running these stores to save the available fuel for the functionality of the cold chain that holds vaccine for the entire Gaza Strip.

The distribution of drugs to MoH hospitals and PHC clinics that was planned to be carried out tomorrow has to be put on hold for the same reason of fuel shortage for transportation.

Access to Health Care outside Gaza

The Israeli Authorities have informed the Health DCO coordinator that only urgent cases will be able to cross the Israeli Erez crossing starting Friday the 18th of January. This decision has been implemented up to now except on the 20th of January, where urgent and cold (non urgent) cases were able to pass.

Patients crossed Erez from January 19 to 21(see attached table)

Pharmaceutical supply delivery

WHO had arranged 48 pallets of medicines to enter Gaza through Kerem Shalom on 17 January. Only 24 pallets were allowed to get in, and, according to the Israeli Liaison Officer, the passage of the rest will be delayed until the reopening of the border. ICRC had coordinated the passage of 48 pallets of medicines to enter Gaza on Sunday, 20th of January. However, the shipment was denied crossing and, again according to Israeli Liaison Officer, held back until the reopening of the border.

Water and Waste Management

Lack of fuel is also affecting the functionality of water pumps that pump water from water wells to the households. Several areas in Gaza are without water. The pumps of the wastewater management plant have already stopped functioning due to the lack of fuel with the danger of lead towards waste water floods and environmental health hazard.

WHO is increasingly concerned about the consequences on the health of the population living in Gaza and the impact of the current aggravating situation on the Palestinian's right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health.

Continuing restrictions on the movement of goods and people are impeding the access to quality heath care. A functional referral system to tertiary care services that is only available outside the occupied Palestinian territory can no longer be ensured due to frequent closure of the Gaza borders.


(1) On the 20th of January, the Israeli company has provided Gaza Strip with 105 megawatts out of the 120 megawatts that usually provides because of some technical problems. The Israeli company has resumed its provision of 120 megawatts to Gaza strip today the 21st of January as the problem has been fixed.


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