Gaza: humanitarian conditions deteriorate

Gaza: humanitarian conditions deteriorate
Copyright REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
Copyright REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
By Monica PinnaRobert Hackwill
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Everything is in short supply, from basic medicines to bed space, as injuries add to the overstretched system that is close to falling apart, warn doctors and UNWRA.


A fragile calm reigns in Gaza, but it is only a temporary truce, that feels more like an armed stand-off. It is still holding, nearly one month after the worst flare-up between Hamas and Israel since the 2014 war.

In the meantime, nearly two million residents of the Gaza Strip get by as they can. They live under a de-facto blockade with the world’s highest unemployment rate. Ali, this is not his real name, told us about his daily struggles:

"Economic conditions here are really difficult. We have nothing. Young people between 29 and 30 years old, you ask them if they have one shekel and they will say no. This explains all these demonstrations at the fence. This has triggered the demos. They want freedom, they want the end of the blockade, want to work, to have a life as everybody else, as in any other country, Arabic or not," he says.

The blockade imposed by Israel in the early 1990s intensified after Hamas started ruling the Strip in 2007. Eleven years of restrictions on the movement of people and goods add to the Palestinian Authority's punitive measures against its rival Hamas. Payments to 38,000 civil servants have been systematically cut and delayed, doctors's salaries included.

In Gaza's main hospital, Al Shifa, we visited the pharmacy of the orthopedic department. They told us the hospital has only 30% of the drugs needed to treat cancer. There are no specific antibiotics, no medicines for diabetic patients. The healthcare system is crumbling and the massive number of injured during the mass protests at the wall between Israel and Gaza adds a heavy burden.

"On the 14th of may we had a gush of patients that came in, Israelis were shooting everybody and we received almost 250 or 300 patients, you cannot imagine that in this area patients were lying on the ground," says the Head of the Emergency Room in Gaza's Al Quds hospital, Dr. Habis el Wahidi, gesturing at a corridor.

The European Humanitarian Aid Office has increased its support to urgent medical assistance and long-term treatments, but it has provided essential services in terms of water, sanitation, livelihood and shelter for years.

"Since 2017 the poverty level in Gaza has increased dramatically. And now we're talking about more than half of the population in Gaza living under the poverty line", says the EU Humanitarian Aid's Filippo Ortolani.

The percentage of those living in poverty rises to 77% among refugees. There are over one million living in eight camps, like the ill-named Beach camp. 53% of people in Gaza have no job and unemployment skyrockets to 70% among the youth. The UN Palestinian refugee agency, (UNRWA), has warned that humanitarian conditions are worsening, in spite of Israel having allowed a 13-million-euro cash infusion from Qatar to pay civil for servants and electricity.

"The population of Gaza is trapped between the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt and the divisions between Palestinian factions with 80% of residents depending on humanitarian aid", reports euronews' Monica Pinna.

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