Palestine Report

Intra-Palestinian strife
hits health care in Gaza


The main reason for the worsening shortages of essential drugs and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip is that the Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministry of Health in the West Bank has not delivered enough drugs and medical supplies to Gaza, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), international aid organisations and Gaza health ministry officials.

WHO did not attribute the shortages to Israel’s more than three-year blockade of the Strip. “Israeli authorities are not blocking the entry of drugs and disposables to Gaza. They recognise these are priority items for humanitarian needs,” said Tony Laurance, the WHO head in Jerusalem.

Gaza’s health ministry is run by the Hamas-led government, but its funds and supplies are provided by the PA, led by rival Palestinian faction Fatah in the West Bank. Lack of communication between the two ministries due to internal conflict is worsening an already crumbling healthcare system in Gaza.

Thirty-eight percent of essential drugs such as antibiotic syrups for children and cancer treatment drugs were out of stock in Gaza (defined as less than one month’s supply at central level) in early 2011, WHO reports. These shortages affect all health ministry facilities, which provide 40% of primary health care and 80% of hospital care services in Gaza.

“The PA [West Bank] health ministry is responsible for supplying Gaza with the drugs and disposables for health ministry hospitals and health clinics in Gaza. The deliveries they made in 2010 to Gaza were significantly lower than in 2009,” Laurance told IRIN.

“The explanation given by the PA is that they are not being provided with reliable information from the Gaza health ministry regarding what drugs and disposables are available,” said Laurance.

According to WHO figures shown to IRIN, in 2010 only 40% of requested drugs and medications were sent to Gaza by the PA health ministry, and only 50% were sent in 2009.

The emergency room at Al-Nasser hospital in Gaza City, Gaza’s main paediatric hospital, receives 250-400 children per week, and admitted 7,150 in 2010, said Nabil Bargouni director.

“For the past six months the hospital has been short of essential drugs and supplies, such as laboratory kits for electrolyte analysis,” [which tests the basic chemicals in the body] said Bargouni. “The shortages are due to the conflict between the two health ministries,” he said.

Essential items missing or in short supply include latex gloves, exchange transfusion sets for newborns, sutures, and even the basic antiseptic ethyl alcohol, according to Maria Cecilia Goin, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesperson in Jerusalem.

Bargouni said his requests to the PA health ministry in the West Bank for desperately needed drugs and supplies have gone unanswered.

“Forty percent of the PA health ministry budget is supposed to be allocated to Gaza, but now the Gaza health ministry has to apply on a case-by-case basis to receive drugs and medical supplies,” said Gaza health minister Baseem Naim. “We are asking the UN and other international donors to establish a neutral system to guarantee a consistent supply,” he added.

PA health minister Fathi Abu Moghli in the West Bank declined to comment when contacted by IRIN. Max Gaylord, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, told IRIN the UN would help if both parties agreed, but stressed that “both sides should put political differences aside and focus on the needs of the people of Gaza”.

PA health ministry officials say medical donations entering Gaza via the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border are filling the gap.

However, according to internal PA health ministry documents obtained by IRIN, only 26% of donations received were according to Gaza’s needs.

WHO - Background note on drug shortages in Gaza 

ate of upload: 25th Apr 2011


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