Medical aid workers are only able to help with a tiny fraction of Gaza’s humanitarian needs as conditions there deteriorate following nearly 15 weeks of war, staff from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said on Friday.
Shortages of medical personnel and supplies, denials of access by Israel, damage and risks from military activity all made it hugely challenging to treat injuries, provide routine care, prevent the spread of disease and tackle increasing malnutrition, they said.
“Our impact is very, very low because there are almost 2 million of people in need of health care,” said Enrico Vallaperta, an intensive care nurse who returned from an MSF mission in Gaza on Thursday.
“If you compare with the needs that there are, what we are doing is really a drop in the ocean,” he told a press conference in Cairo.
Israel’s offensive in Gaza, launched in the wake of a deadly incursion by Hamas militants into southern Israel on Oct. 7, has displaced about 75% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.
More than one million people are crammed into the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, where many have just plastic sheeting for shelter in the rain and cold.
Food, medicine, power and fuel have been in short supply, with deliveries of aid from outside Gaza delayed by onerous inspection regimes and complications distributing relief within the enclave.
MSF had not been able to make deliveries of aid to the north of Gaza since November, and requests to access areas throughout the strip were often denied or left unanswered by Israel, said Helen Ottens-Patterson, an MSF emergency coordinator.
“We’re able to support our own activities in a very hand to mouth way, but beyond that I think the situation is catastrophic and we need unhindered humanitarian access as soon as possible, and we need a ceasefire to allow us to work properly,” she said.
The United Nations has also complained about Israel’s “systematic” refusal to grant access to north Gaza, a problem it says became more acute this month.
Israel has denied blocking the entry of aid.
A lack of access to healthcare throughout Gaza has resulted in amputations being done with little or no anaesthesia, women giving birth without medical care, and outbreaks of diarrhoeal and respiratory disease spreading without treatment, MSF staff said.
“The global situation is extremely, extremely worrying in terms of the public health situation in the Gaza Strip and the worsening of the conditions on the ground,” said Ottens-Patterson.
Mental health problems were not always visible because people were so focused on survival, but the issue would “explode” once the situation in Gaza stabilised, said Vallaperta. REUTERS
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