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Gaza Home Rubble

12,000 people in Gaza remain displaced because of the blockade on materials. Photo: William Parry

1 August 2013  by MAP (Medical Aid for Palestine) 

Recent events in Egypt have meant that Palestinians living in Gaza are facing additional hardship.

Egyptian officials, following the deposition of President Morsi, have shut down around 90% of the tunnels, which the population of 1.7 million in Gaza relies on to partially circumvent Israel’s illegal blockade. Egypt has also imposed partial restrictions on the Rafah crossing on the movement of people and goods. According to the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza, 30% of medicines and 25% of medical disposables donated to the MOH come through Rafeh, and the closure has stopped these items getting through, adding to the enclave’s shortage of essential drugs and medical supplies.

MAP’s Fikr Shaltoot, Director Programmes, said: “The Ministry of Health suffered from a shortage of drugs and disposables prior to the closure of Rafah. This means that Gaza’s hospitals will suffer even more and it will have a direct, detrimental impact on patients. It will also require more referrals for urgent treatment abroad, which will incur extra costs when funds are already very scarce.”

The volume of construction materials entering Gaza through the tunnels has dropped to a seventh of what it was several weeks ago. Cement and aggregates – to rebuild the homes, schools, buildings and infrastructure that were destroyed in Israel’s war on Gaza in 2008-09 and again in November 2012 – remain desperately needed items. Prior to the tunnel closures, three times more cement and aggregates came via Egypt through the tunnels than through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel. As a result of the blockade, 12,000 Palestinians in Gaza remain displaced, unable to rebuild their homes, and there is a shortage of 250 schools. The lack of concrete has also contributed to critical water and sewage treatment projects being put on hold, which has a direct impact on the environment and health.

The tunnel closures have also created fluctuations in the amount of petrol and diesel available in Gaza, resulting in longer power cuts and long queues at petrol stations. Although hospitals are prioritised along with the power plant for allocations of diesel, any additional shortages will mean that hospitals will have to cut into their limited reserves. The regular power cuts, which can last 12 hours each day, have forced many in Gaza to resort to candles and generators, which have contributed to the number of deaths and injuries through fires over the six years that the blockade has been in place.

The rise in prices caused by the shortages of goods has hit a population already suffering from high unemployment and poverty – unemployment is at 34.5%, with 57% of households food insecure and 80% of households aid dependent. The shortage of concrete has brought construction to a virtual halt, further exacerbating unemployment rates. Poverty is a main determinant of health, and these conditions also have a psychosocial impact on a captive population. 


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