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Sunday, 11 January 2009

Gaza - the view from those dealing with the fall out

From the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani on the situation at the Al Ahli Arab (Anglican) Hospital:

Every day since the beginning of military operations, the hospital has received 20-40 injured or wounded patients. A large proportion of them require hospitalisation and surgery. These patients are in addition to those with non-conflict-related illnesses. About one-fourth of the patients are children.

In addition, the conflict has brought new types of medical and surgical conditions. For example, patients with burns and acute, crippling psychological trauma, are being seen more frequently. Because it is not possible for aid workers to enter Gaza at this time, the hospital's staff is working around the clock, struggling with the effects of exhaustion and against limited resources in a conflicted area of ongoing military operations.

Many medical items are needed, especially bandages and supplies for burns and trauma. The hospital's windows have all been blown out or shattered from rocket and missile concussion and cold permeates the entire premises. Plastic sheeting to cover the windows could alleviate some of the cold but is unavailable now. Food supplies are scant throughout the Gaza strip and maintaining patients' nutritional needs at the hospital has been difficult, especially for the most vulnerable. Some medicines and supplies for the hospital have been generously donated by USAID, but it has not yet been possible to deliver the items. The Al Ahli Arab (Anglican) Hospital has been in operation for over 100 years and has a very dedicated medical staff of doctors, nurses, technicians and general services personnel. Suheil Dawani

According to a report on Ekklesia:

The three hour ceasefire was simply not enough to deliver vital humanitarian aid Christian Aid and its Gaza based partners have said today.

Christian Aid partners report that they have seen very little benefit on the ground, and that the ceasefire was too short to make any real difference to the many desperate people who need help.

Many stated that people were too terrified to go out into the streets and believed that Israel would attack if they did.

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel also reported that there was not enough time for medical teams or medical personnel to get to everyone requiring assistance. Some medical teams were refused access to some areas, including those where families have been trapped for several days with the injured and dead.

Few Christian Aid partners say they are able to operate fully, and many were unable to restart operations within the limited time available.

There was also concern that, given the fact that vehicles travelling from the Egyptian border take at least 1.5 hours to reach Gaza City, there would not be enough time to transport supplies, let alone distribute them.

Movement of supplies between different areas is extremely difficult, as the Gaza Strip has now been divided into three isolated areas by the Israeli military, and some major roads have been destroyed.

Although the ceasefire was supposed to be in operation, Ahmed Sourani of Palestinian Agricultural Relief Services (PARC) could still hear shelling during the three hour period.

“Yesterday the three hour ceasefire gave us a chance to go to hospital, to get some supplies and visit each other. Thousands are injured and many killed. Three hours is not enough because not all the injured can be reached, particularly those in remote areas, they can’t be reached by ambulances and doctors, it is a terrifying issue; it is a humanitarian and critical issue. These are lives of people and children. Even the relatives of people injured and trapped cannot get to them” he said.

“All efforts are needed to create a new and permanent situation. There is no time for temporary solutions- these temporary solutions have been used in the past- they haven’t worked in the last 15 years. There should be serious pressure on key actors in the region. We need a real ceasefire agreement otherwise we will come back to square one. “

Essam from Christian Aid partner the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) which has been providing emergency medical care, said: “The situation is very miserable: our house is not a shelter; the school is not a shelter; the street is not a shelter; everywhere is dangerous, and nowhere is safe.

“Because Israel controls the entry and exit into the Gaza Strip, Palestinian civilians remain trapped with nowhere to flee to escape the onslaught of military attacks. Many areas in the Gaza Strip have been without electricity for 11 days, also impacting the ability to power the provision of water supplies and communications. All banks remain closed, limiting the ability to secure funds to purchase the dwindling supplies available in the market as a result of the ongoing siege. Hundreds of people queued for several hours today to purchase bread during the ceasefire, but were unable to get any."


According to Ecumenical News International in an item posted on Ekklesia

Civilians injured by bombings in Gaza are stuck in their homes without food and water, unable to seek medical attention, says the director of an Anglican hospital in Gaza City. Nurses working at the hospital are unable to reach their own injured children at home.

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital has treated more than 100 patients since the onset of the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants. The director of the hospital, Dr Suhaila Tarazi, has been working 16-hour days trying to make the best use of increasingly scarce resources.

She had told Action by Churches Together International, a global alliance of churches and related agencies that supports the hospital, that the situation is worsening by the hour.

On 6 January, ACT International reported that three mobile health clinics in Gaza had been destroyed in an Israeli air strike the previous night. The clinics were run by the Union of Healthcare Committees, started by Palestinian doctors and nurses, and supported by DanChurchAid, a member of ACT. Since the conflict between Hamas and Israel started, the vehicles had been upgraded to provide intensive care to the wounded.

Tarazi had said, "On Sunday we received 17 patients suffering from bombing and shrapnel injuries. Most of the injured were civilians who were sitting in their homes. However, there are even more injured people in areas where they are simply stuck in homes without food, water and electricity - and we are unable to reach them."

When people come to the hospital they are treated and as soon as they are stable they are sent home.

"We have treated more than 100 patients since the most recent attacks began. And we are currently housing 30 injured patients along with persons rejected from other hospitals. We are a church hospital and so we do not turn anyone away," said the doctor.

"The hospital is in urgent need of medicine and supplies. There is no electricity in all of Gaza. We are currently running off of generator power," warned Tarazi. "We have very little supplies left, enough to last for another week. If this crisis continues, we will be in a very dire situation."

The doctor noted, "The attacks are also hitting close to our area here in Gaza City. Yesterday, the main square beside the hospital was bombed - just 30 metres away. The attack left a big crater and injured seven innocent civilians who were just walking on the street."

The crisis is also affecting the families of her own staff, she said.

"Yesterday, one of our nurses, Hania Murad, received a call from her husband while she was working here at the hospital," said Tarazi. "Her husband was calling for the hospital to send an ambulance to pick up her kids, who had been injured in a bombing. However, their home is near the American international school, where we are not allowed to go, even with an ambulance. The Red Cross was also unable to send an ambulance into the area. For 18 hours her kids sat waiting and injured."

One of nurse Murad's children died. "This is the life of our staff. While their hands are working hard to save the lives of many, their hearts are at home with their own kids," said Tarazi.

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