oPt/Gaza: Disruption of medical services hampers treatment

Geneva/Jerusalem (ICRC) - The situation of several hundred seriously ill patients in the Gaza Strip who cannot obtain urgently needed medical treatment is extremely worrying, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

In recent weeks, because of a standstill in cooperation between Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza, imports of essential medical supplies have been reduced to a trickle, thus aggravating an already critical situation.

"This is having a serious impact, said Eileen Daly, the ICRC's health coordinator for Gaza. For example, children suffering from cystic fibrosis, a serious lung disease, have not had access to proper medication for the past week. They need to take the medication every day, or their condition will deteriorate rapidly."

A strike of Palestinian health workers that has been under way since the end of August is also having an effect on the ability of hospitals to offer adequate care. Surgical operations have decreased by 40%, and hospital admissions are down 20%.

Yet another cause for concern is that the number of seriously ill patients referred for specialized treatment to hospitals in Israel, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Jordan has dropped by half in recent months. Those affected include cancer and cardiac patients, who will suffer from a gradual deterioration of their condition if they do not receive the necessary medical attention outside Gaza.

To help hospitals cope with the most urgent needs, the ICRC regularly provides medical facilities with drugs, medical supplies and spare parts, mainly for emergency rooms and operating theatres. In the current situation, however, humanitarian aid alone is not enough.

The ICRC calls on the Palestinian health authorities both in Ramallah and Gaza to take urgent measures to ensure that suitable medical supplies are available in Gaza in sufficient quantity. It also calls on the Israeli authorities to facilitate timely deliveries of medical supplies and equipment to the Strip.

"Health issues should not to be politicized," said the ICRC head of mission, Katharina Ritz. "Pragmatic solutions need to be found, because many lives are at stake."

For more information, please contact:

Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneve, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or + 41 79 251 93 18

Anne Sophie Bonefeld, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 91 50 or +972 2 582 88 45

Nadia Dibsy, ICRC Jerusalem, tel: +972 52 601 91 48 or +972 2 582 88 45

Iyad Nasr, ICRC Gaza, tel: +972 59 960 30 15

Yael Segev-Eytan, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel: +972 35 24 52 86 or +972 52 275 75 17