Red Cross says Gaza health crisis of ‘uprecedented magnitude’


GENEVA, May 31, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The Red Cross warned Thursday that Gaza
was facing an “epic” crisis, after weeks of violence has left more than
13,000 Palestinians wounded, overwhelming an already disastrously weak health

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was stepping up its
assistance in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, and was sending in two
surgical teams, additional medical specialists and supplies to help face the

“The recent demonstrations and violent activities along the Gaza border…
have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude,” Robert Mardini,
who heads the ICRC’s Near and Middle East operations, told reporters.

At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest
that flared up at the end of March. No Israelis have been killed.

More than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600
by live ammunition, some multiple times, and there had been nearly 5,400 limb
injuries, ICRC said.

Mardini’s comments came as calm appeared to return to the Gaza Strip and
nearby Israeli communities following the worst military flare-up in the area
since a 2014 war, raising fears of yet another full-blown conflict in the
narrow strip.

Mardini said that in the seven weeks since the demonstrations and violence
began “we have exceeded the wounded caseload of the August 2014 war”.

– ‘Brink of collapse’ –

“This did not happen in a vacuum,” he said. “This epic health crisis took
place against the backdrop of multiple, protracted, chronic crises affecting
all sectors of life in Gaza.”

Warning that the Gaza health system was on “the brink of collapse”, he said
ICRC would boost its assistance over a six-month period to reinforce medical
facilities “which are clearly struggling to cope”.

Of the thousands wounded, some 1,350 people have complex injuries and will
require between three and five surgeries each, Mardini said.

That is “a total of more than 4,000 surgeries, half of which will be
carried out by ICRC teams,” he said. “I think such a caseload would overwhelm
any health system in the world.”

The ICRC has appealed to donors for a $5.3-million budget extension to fund
a new 50-bed surgical unit in the Al-Shifa Hospital, medical supplies and
other additional assistance.

That comes on top of its annual budget for its work across Israel and the
Palestinian territories of around $49 million — far less than half of which
is funded.

But while Mardini voiced hope the boost in aid would help, he cautioned
that it was far from a permanent fix for Gaza which has sky-high
unemployment, limited supplies of electricity and clean water, and a
sanitation system unable to cope.

“The whole Gaza is a sinking ship,” he said.

And while health workers are focused squarely on “saving lives and limbs”,
other health services, for instance during child birth or to respond to a
heart attack, are suffering, he said.