In the months following the May bombardment, we partnered with Americares to distribute a series of shipments containing much needed drugs and other medical items.
The restrictions on movement in Palestine due to conflict is one of the most limiting aspects of Palestinian life. Perhaps no sector best illustrates the life and death consequences of Gaza’s isolation more than healthcare. The bombing and shelling of Gaza in May 2021 during a period of heightened conflict came on the heels of a surge in COVID cases and highlighted the challenges facing the healthcare system in Gaza.
The limits on travel and movement have impacted Palestinian life in nearly every aspect, especially in terms of accessing medical care and treatment. Gaza suffers from severe medical neglect. Only a few underequipped, understaffed, and underfunded hospitals and clinics deliver healthcare for more than two million people – and often that care is not adequate. Accessing care in the West Bank, Israel, or other countries is mostly not possible because of travel restrictions and permit denials.
Many of the hospitals and clinics struggle to stay adequately supplied with pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment. Shortages were already a longstanding problem before the pandemic. After the first cases of COVID in Gaza, the ministry of health reported a shortage of COVID testing kits, intensive care units, respirators, diagnostic equipment, and protective gear. The ministry noted that hospitals and medical centers in Gaza had a serious shortage of 45% of the essential drugs list, 31% of medical consumables, and 65% of laboratory products and blood banking supplies. While international health bodies, like Anera, have subsequently supplied some essential aid, many shortages remain.
A number of drugs and supplies are urgently needed in Gaza, including chemotherapy medications, anti-fungals, IV solutions, and most recently, COVID testing kits and ventilators. A September report from the Health Cluster Bulletin details how hospitals in Gaza have a less than one month supply of 39% of essential medicines and 21% of essential disposables.
International organizations play an essential role in ameliorating these shortages. With our partners, Anera has done a great deal to meet the needs of the people. In the months following the May bombardment, we partnered with the health-focused relief and development organization Americares to distribute a series of shipments containing much needed drugs and other medical items.
How medical aid from Americares helped Gaza in the six months after the conflict
In July, just two months after the May conflict, Americares donated a number of medicines, including an important penicillin antibiotic, to Gaza. Vials of the piperacillin and tazobactam combination treat a wide array of infections, including pneumonia. Typically, medical providers in Gaza must purchase this medicine. Hospitals often require patients to purchase the medicine themselves at private pharmacies, which can present an insurmountable financial obstacle to treatment for the poorest families. Thanks to this medical aid from Americares, Anera was able to distribute the antibiotic to clinics and hospitals across Gaza, making it available to patients at no charge.
In early September, Anera distributed an Americares shipment of PPE — including coveralls and gloves, as well as medicines and medical supplies — to Gaza healthcare providers.
“The healthcare system in Gaza faces many challenges, including old medical equipment and a shortage of disposable equipment. In Israel we throw this equipment into the trash after one use, and in Gaza they’re forced to use it repeatedly.”
— Iyad Khamaysi, following a visit to Gaza with Physicians for Human Rights in May
In early November, we distributed an Americares shipment containing large quantities of PPE, including tens of thousands of N95 masks and exam gloves. This medical aid came at a crucial time — when Gaza was experiencing its third COVID wave and supplies were badly needed. Shortages were especially acute for medical gloves — the price in the local market tripled, burdening the already strained finances of local health facilities.
Later in the month, Anera distributed reteplase, a critical drug for the treatment of heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolisms, along with other medications donated by Americares. This was the first time that this medicine, essential to dissolving blood clots, has been donated to our healthcare partners in Gaza. Shifa Hospital was completely out of stock of the drug at the time. We arranged for urgent pickup at our distribution center so that patients in critical condition in the ICU would be able to receive treatment.