The inventory of medicines in the Gaza Strip is very low, with a third of all necessary pharmaceutical drugs and more than 270 items of medical equipment needed for surgery currently being unavailable. Patients who are particularly affected by this situation are those suffering from cystic fibrosis, cancer patients and 240 infants with developmental problems.
According to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI), Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Israel ‒ the latter because of its decade-long closure of the Gaza Strip ‒ all bear responsibility for the worsening humanitarian crisis. This terrible shortage of medications further exacerbates the consequences of the electricity crisis, which has already severely impacted the functioning of Gaza’s hospitals.
Until recently, the PA would transfer to the authorities in Gaza 4 million dollars every month to operate 13 government hospitals and 54 primary health centers. In April, because of infighting between Hamas and the PA, the budget provided by Ramallah was reduced to 2.3 million dollars, and in May, hospitals and primary health services received only half a million dollars. Israel has contributed to the crisis through the unreasonable limitations it has placed on the free movement of people and goods, including medical equipment. These limitations, together with numerous military operations and attacks, have increased the vulnerability and risk of disease for the residents of the Gaza Strip, and have eroded basic social factors related to health to such a degree that the right to health has become nearly impossible to realize in the Palestinian enclave.
Among the groups most impacted by the current crisis are 321 sufferers of cystic fibrosis, many of whom are children. These patients require roughly 40,000 Kryon pills a month, which are currently unavailable, as well as Zinnat antibiotics and vitamins A and D in order to receive their regular treatment. In addition, because of the regular electricity cuts (as much as 20 hours per day), patients are unable to use humidifiers to help regulate their breathing.
Other vulnerable groups include cancer patients and babies with enzyme deficiencies. Around 90% of the medications regularly used for cancer treatment are not in stock, making doctors unable to follow treatment protocols. In addition, some 240 infants with enzyme deficiencies are in desperate need of therapeutic milk, also unavailable, without which they will suffer life-long developmental problems.
Physicians for Human Rights has initiated an appeal to secure funds to transfer additional medication to the Gaza Strip to alleviate this crisis, at least temporarily. The organization is demanding that Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel “take responsibility and enable the flow of medications and funds to Gaza. Israel specifically must end the closure of Gaza, ensure that Gaza’s economic development is not curtailed and enable free movement of materials required for humanitarian and infrastructural needs that closely affect health.”