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MSF Report Denounces Gaza’s “Silent Killings” From Preventable Disease And Lack Of Access To Medical Care


News from Medecins Sans Frontieres

Gaza’s
healthcare system has been devastated, with men, women and
children at increasing risk of acute malnutrition and with
their physical and mental health deteriorating rapidly,
according to a report released today by international
medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors
Without Borders (MSF) entitled Gaza’s Silent Killings:
The destruction of the healthcare system and the struggle
for survival in Rafah.

More than six months into
the war in Gaza, the devastation extends far beyond those
killed by Israeli bombardments and airstrikes. MSF describes
the massive struggle faced by Palestinians in Gaza today to
access medical care and warns of large numbers of
preventable deaths caused by disruptions to critical
healthcare.

“How many children have already died of
pneumonia in overwhelmed hospitals?” asks Mari-Carmen
Viñoles, head of MSF’s emergency programmes. “How many
babies have died because of preventable diseases? How many
patients suffering from diabetes are left untreated? What
about the deadly consequences of the closure of kidney
dialysis units in attacked hospitals? These are the silent
killings of Gaza not reported in all this chaos, caused by
the collapse of the healthcare system across
Gaza.”

MSF teams working in Rafah report that the
decimated healthcare system and inhumane living conditions
also raise the risk of disease outbreaks, malnutrition and
the long-term impact of psychological trauma. MSF warns that
a military incursion in Rafah, on top of the current
humanitarian crisis in Gaza, would be an unfathomable
catastrophe and calls for an immediate and sustained
ceasefire.

Living conditions in Rafah exacerbate
health issues

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Living conditions in Rafah today are
not conducive for survival, says MSF’s report, drawing on
medical data and the testimony of patients. There is a
desperate shortage of clean water for drinking or bathing,
while rubbish and raw sewage accumulate in the streets in
this tiny wedge of land now hosting more than one million
people who were forcibly displaced from the north of
Gaza.

Across just two of the primary healthcare
centres run by MSF in the Al-Shaboura and Al-Mawasi areas,
our teams are providing an average of 5,000 medical
consultations every week, many linked to people’s
sub-standard living conditions. Over 40 per cent of these
consultations are for patients with upper respiratory tract
infections. MSF has seen an increasing number of suspected
cases of hepatitis A. In the last three months of 2023,
cases of diarrhoeal illnesses reported among children under
five were 25 times higher than during the same period in
2022. Between January and March 2024, teams treated 216
children under five for moderate or severe acute
malnutritiona condition which was almost entirely absent
prior to the current conflict.

With hospitals
overwhelmed with trauma patients, people with other types of
medical needs, such as pregnant women with complications and
people living with chronic diseases, are often unable to
receive the care they require. In Emirati hospital, where
MSF is supporting the postpartum department, medical teams
struggle to deal with close to 100 deliveries a day, five
times more than before the war. In MSF’s clinics,
consultations for hypertension, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy
and cancers have been increasing as patients seek monitoring
and medication. However, if their condition worsens and they
require specialised medication or equipment, which are
increasingly difficult to obtain in Gaza, little can be done
for them. Many medical referrals in Gaza today are delayed
or are simply not possible.

The mental health of
Gaza’s population – including medical staff – is also
in tatters. Most patients arriving at MSF clinics have
symptoms related to anxiety and stress, including
psychosomatic and depressive conditions. Some people caring
for family members with severe mental health disorders have
resorted to excessive sedation to keep them safe and prevent
them from harming themselves or others, due to the lack of
specialised services still functioning in Gaza.

For
MSF, trying to support Gaza’s devastated healthcare system
has been extremely challenging due to the insecurity. MSF
has also faced substantial challenges bringing medical
supplies and humanitarian aid into Gaza due to delays and
restrictions by Israeli authorities, which are described in
detail in the report’s annex.

“As an international
emergency medical organisation, we have the expertise and
the means to do much more and scale up our response,” says
Sylvain Groulx, MSF emergency coordinator. “Palestinian
medical staff are highly skilled and only need to be given
the means to work in acceptable and dignified conditions to
treat and save lives. But today all this remains absurdly
impossible. Without an immediate and sustained ceasefire and
the entrance of meaningful humanitarian assistance, we will
continue to see more people die.”

About our
work in Gaza:

MSF currently operates in
three hospitals in Gaza: Al-Aqsa hospital (Middle Area),
Rafah Indonesian field hospital and Emirati maternity
hospital (South Gaza), as well as three healthcare
facilities, in Al-Shaboura and Al-Mawasi, in
Rafah.

MSF medical teams provide surgical
support, wound care, physiotherapy, post-partum care,
primary healthcare, vaccinations and mental health services.
However, systematic sieges and evacuation orders on various
hospitals are pushing our activities into an ever-smaller
area and limiting our ability to respond to people’s
needs.

MSF is also providing 300 cubic metres
of clean water a day in various locations in Rafah and is
continuously working to increase this quantity. On 28 March,
MSF set up a new desalination plant in
Al-Mawasi.

© Scoop Media

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