Posts Tagged ‘Maxwell Gaylard’

At Gaza Hospital, Chaos and Desperation

January 6, 2009


Israel’s Strategy Of Dividing the Strip Hinders Relief Efforts

By Sudarsan Raghavan and Reyham Abdel Kareem
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 6, 2009; A09

JERUSALEM, Jan. 5 — Mohammed Alwan applied pressure to the wounds of the young man in a corridor of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital on Monday. Blood flowing from his body turned the surgeon’s gloved hands crimson.

“Khalas,” a voice said, Arabic for “It’s over.”

The doctor refused to give up. He pumped the man’s chest, hoping to resuscitate him. A few minutes later, the man died.

“What can I say?” he said in a fatigued voice. “I have seen this scene many times. I’ve been here four days straight and I’ve yet to go home.”

As Israeli tanks and infantry push deeper into Gaza, an already dire humanitarian situation has worsened. The Israeli government has imposed what Palestinians call a siege on the coastal strip — restricting deliveries of food, medicine and other staples — since Hamas took Gaza by force from the rival Fatah party in June 2007. On Monday, Israel’s military strategy of dividing the strip in two further hampered Gazans ability to reach hospitals and relief efforts.

The air assaults and ground clashes have paralyzed much of what makes the strip of 1.5 million people work — hospitals, water and power systems, markets and roads.

About 550 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,500 have been reported wounded in the 10-day offensive; Palestinian health officials estimate that many of them — between 24 and 30 percent — are women and children. Most are at Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital.

Doctors there are working day and night on floors soaked with blood to help the rapidly mounting numbers of wounded. In the halls and corridors, screams and uncontrolled sobbing, along with the sounds of bombs and mortars, punctuate conversations.

“The numbers of killed and wounded are rising. Every minute we have a bombardment,” said Hassan Khalaf, the director of Shifa Hospital. “The number of cases is overwhelming us. No hospital in the world can handle this.”

It’s become too dangerous for his staff to retrieve victims. Eleven members of his medical staff have been killed since the offensive began. “They were in ambulances,” Khalaf said.

For the past three days, there has been no electricity. The hospital’s emergency generators have been working around the clock. Even before then, when electricity was sporadic, the generators were working 16-hour-days. The hospital, he said, has only two days of fuel left.

“Electricity and communications are down over much of the strip both on account of lack of fuel and damage to critical infrastructure,” said Maxwell Gaylard, the United Nations‘ humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories. “Over a million people are currently without power, and over a quarter million without running water, some for up to six days.”

Khalaf said there are also shortages of medicines, medical tools, nitrogen for anesthesia, monitors — nearly every item imaginable. Many essential staff members, especially nurses, have been unable to come to work, cut off by the fighting, Israeli tank positions and fear.

“Those in the middle of Gaza Strip could not come to work because the Israeli tanks have cut the strip into two pieces,” Khalaf said.

Fawzi Nabulsia, the head of the hospital’s intensive care unit, said he hasn’t worked since the ground invasion began Saturday. He lives south of Gaza City near the former Israeli settlement of Nitzarim. Israeli forces are now in the area, blocking the road between his house and Gaza City, Nabulsia said.

“Maybe you can speak with the Israelis and ask them to allow me to go to hospital,” he said over the telephone, his voice tinged with desperation. “We are in crisis.”

Khalaf said hospital staffers who live north of the city, where some of the heaviest fighting and attacks have unfolded, are too fearful to leave their homes. “Moving along Gaza’s streets is dangerous,” he said.

Inside Shifa Hospital on Monday, its doctors struggled to cope. Imad Majdalawi had handled 20 operations in 24 hours. In virtually every case, he had to fix broken bones, treat burns and cuts, and stop bleeding. “The worse thing I saw was the burns,” he said.

In one case, he wanted to send a patient who lost one of his eyes in an Israeli bombing to an eye hospital. But his request was turned down: the generator for the surgical theater in the hospital was needed to fuel the emergency room.

On Monday, he was treating Ghadeer, a 14-year-old girl whose hands were covered in gauze. Blood seeped through it. She was crying and shaking. Her mother and four brothers had been killed an airstrike. She didn’t know this.

“I am cold. I can’t move,” Ghadeer moaned.

Majdalawi soothed her. “Don’t worry Ghadeer. Everything will be fine.”

But there was no anesthesia or even the appropriate scissors and thread to help Ghadeer. “We are leaving patients in pain,” Majdalawi said.

A neurosurgeon, Rami al-Sousi, was engaged in a delicate operation to pull shrapnel from 5-year-old Salim al-Ar’s head. The boy would survive. Sousi has two small children but he hasn’t seen much of them in the past three days. Ninety percent of the patients he treated were civilians, he said.

“Yes, I’m tired. But I forget everything when I save lives,” Sousi said.

Abdel Kareem reported from Gaza City.

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Gazans face ‘humanitarian crisis’ as Israeli raids intensify

January 2, 2009

Aid agencies warn of looming disaster with supply shortage inflicting more suffering on families

By Kim Sengupta in Jerusalem | The Independent
Friday, 2 January 2009

A child arrives at Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike yesterday

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A child arrives at Shifa hospital in Gaza City after an Israeli air strike yesterday

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After six days of Israeli bombardment, aid agencies say that Gazans are facing a humanitarian crisis with air strikes causing severe problems in getting food, medicine and fuel supplies to the besiegedcivilian population.

The assessment, by several international relief organisations, contradicts the statement by the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, during a visit to Paris yesterday that “there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce”. While relief shipments were allowed into Gaza by the Israeli authorities in the days before the start of the offensive, they came after weeks of virtually no supplies getting through, the agencies point out.

The biggest difficulty is that many people are too frightened by bombing to venture out to collect food rations. Gaza officials are also unwilling to take part in food distribution because they could be considered legitimate targets by the Israeli military for working for the Hamas-run administration. Chris Gunness of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which looks after 750,000 refugees in Gaza, said: “How can one carry out proper relief work in these conditions of violence? The people of Gaza have already suffered the most stringent economic sanctions. There are obviously problems with giving out aid. Even when people want to get food for their hungry family, they are very aware of the dangers they are facing in going out.”

Mr Gunness said the agency carried out food distribution yesterday. “But, as things stand now, we have only a few days supply left.”

Doctors inside Gaza report that hospitals are running out of medicine and equipment as the toll of dead and injured continues to rise and puts further pressure on stretched resources. Anaesthetics, antibiotics and drugs for cancer and other long-term illnesses are in short supply along with syringes and IV fluids.

Dr Hassan Khalaf, of the main Shifa hospital in Gaza City, said that Palestinian civilians are paying a terrible price: “We are getting really badly injured people coming in every day. What is the point of saying you are allowing food in for people when you then go on to bomb them? The Israelis may say they are just attacking Hamas but I am seeing children and women coming covered in blood. What we are seeing is a war on the people. The Hamas fighters firing the rockets are at the border, they are not in the city.

“We have organised the hospitals so that different ones are looking after different types of injuries. But the common problem we face is that we are having bad shortages in lots of things, especially anesthetics and antibiotics. We are talking to the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] and I hope we shall get some help.”

A serious shortage of industrial fuel is also exacerbating the difficulties for civilians after Israeli forces stopped supplies because the crossing points into Gaza were coming under regular rocket attacks, creating the danger of conflagrations. At the same time, the destruction of tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has blocked alternative routes for procuring transport diesel used by Palestinian households.

Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, head of the World Food Programme for Gaza and the West Bank, acknowledged that a “significant amount” of food was allowed in by the Israelis before the start of the air strikes. “But we must not forget this came after weeks when hardly any food had got in at all. One of our warehouses is full but we have another one empty as it is in an area which has seen a lot of bombings.

“Our partners in Gaza are the Ministry of Social Welfare and their officials are not taking part in the distribution process because they feel they might get bombed for working for a Hamas government. This is a serious problem as is the fact that people are finding it difficult to move about. We are facing an acute food crisis.”

Maxwell Gaylard, the UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator for Gaza and the Palestinian territories, said “Gaza is facing a serious emergency, that is a fact. Food supplies have been allowed in but there are huge problems caused by the lack of industrial fuel and this is causing severe problems. To address all these problems we need a ceasefire.”

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister said “We are doing our utmost to avoid unnecessary suffering for civilians. What we cannot understand is the claim by officials from the ministries there that they cannot take part in the relief effort because they will be targeted. This is nonsense, perhaps the real reason is that it is in the interest of Hamas to ensure that food does not get to the people due to their own particular agenda.”


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