7 August 2014
Dr Hassan Zain Eldeen from PMRS, our partner organisation in Gaza, describes the struggle to care for patients when medical supplies are running low, clean water is scarce and there is no electricity.
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The front line
'We're working on the front line of medical care. PMRS is trying to get to the worst hit areas where people have no access to healthcare facilities.
‘We go to areas where children have no homes and are in great need. They and their mothers have no place to hide.
‘We try to get them to UNRWA schools to shelter, but the roads are destroyed and they cannot go by car or bus.
'Whole families with small children have to walk on bombed roads to try to get to shelter.
'When we take the mobile clinic to these areas, the first thing we try to do is get the children to safe places.
'Then we advise their parents on how to deal with the issues they’re facing.’
Our partner, PMRS, is managing to operate two mobile health clinics in incredibly dangerous circumstances.
Children most vulnerable
'We're meeting so many children suffering from diarrhoea and dehydration because they do not have enough water to drink or to wash in.
‘Children are vulnerable to infection because they have low immunity - and there are so many viruses in the crowded shelters.
‘Any virus results in severe symptoms. We're also seeing lots of skin infections.
'60 or 70% of children have respiratory tract infections because they had to flee their houses and the bombs with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and since then they’ve been sleeping on the ground.’
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'60 or 70% of children are suffering from psychological trauma'
'The critical situation with children is trauma and post-traumatic stress. We're seeing children who are having convulsions, involuntary urination, anxiety and neuroses.
'I estimate that 50% of the population of Gaza now has some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, and I believe about 60 or 70% of children are suffering from psychological trauma.
'30% of the children we’re seeing are suffering from convulsions.
'We prescribe sedatives for children and also adults who are suffering from great anxiety.
'These can help in the short term but it's just a temporary support. In the longer term, they must have proper psychological support.’
Shortages of medicines, water and fuel
'For the last seven years there have been shortages of medications due to the blockade on Gaza, especially medicines for children and for chronic diseases such as diabetes or bronchial asthma.
‘Since this latest war, the situation has become critical. There’s been a surge in need for medicines, but new supplies are not getting in.
'And there is no clean water in the whole of the Gaza Strip. The water we get here is never fit for drinking, only for washing the dishes or something like that.
‘People haven’t been able to buy clean water or even get dirty water, which is resulting in dehydration and many infections.
'We have no electricity at all. Our mobile clinics have small generators, and in hospitals they have big generators, but the problem we’re facing now is fuel shortages.
‘If we cannot get the fuel to run the generators, the hospitals cannot function. Especially Shifa Hospital - the central hospital - and the European Hospital in Khan Younis.
‘If they cannot run the generators, they will not be able to run incubators for babies, dialysis machines, life support. We are in a critical situation.
‘We are in a critical situation.'
'More than 10,000 people were wounded in the violence, and more than 4,000 of them are children under 16.
'They are hospitalised in very poor conditions with insufficient treatment, medicines, facilities and even water.
‘And getting out of Gaza for treatment is extremely hard. Only 17 cases were able to get out into Egypt yesterday because the Rafah crossing is closed.'
PMRS providing short and long-term support
‘We hope and pray that the violence does not start again. But we’re also taking measures in case it does.
'We’re trying to train small groups in the population to deal with injury and illness and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
'We give them the phone numbers of doctors they can call in emergencies.
‘We leave small supplies of painkillers and drugs to prevent convulsions, and most of all we try to give them some water, but the problem is that there are such shortages.
'In the longer term, over the coming weeks and months, PMRS will be dealing with injured people, and with the high levels of post-traumatic stress. There is a great need for long-term psychosocial treatment.'
Message to the people of Britain and Ireland
'I know that most of you are supportive of the Palestinian people.
‘Please put pressure on your governments to help us. Please try to change this situation of occupation and violence against ordinary people.
‘And thank you for your support in helping us deal with this latest crisis.'
As the people of Gaza desperately search for food, water, shelter, and medicines, they need your support.
Your solidarity in helping to provide these needs can help them find that strength to face the incredibly difficult months and years ahead, and start rebuilding their lives.
Find out more
Christian Aid's Azzam Alsaqqa provides moving video testimony of the situation in Gaza.