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Study suggests that Gaza siege will have long-term effect on Palestinian health

Palestinian health experts who have studied the impact of the Israeli siege on Gaza have said that the siege will have long-term damaging effects on the health of Palestinians. Of particular concern is the fact that the siege has resulted in many cases of malnutrition in children.

A series of research papers published in the Lancet medical journal on Friday 2 July revealed that the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2009 has had a catastrophic impact on the local population, particularly the children. Tension is still very high in Gaza and Palestinian women have spoken out about the horrors they have endured while in labour under the siege: "I can't believe I am still alive," said one.

It is believed that more than 1400 people were killed, with thousands more injured, during the Israeli attack and according to the experts the destruction to the infrastructure was unprecedented.

Israel has now said that it is easing the siege of the territory but a researcher at the Institute for Public and Community Health at Birzeit University claims that the siege still constitutes the main obstacle to better living standards. Niveen Abu Ramlah and her associates conducted a study on the ramifications for health arising from the war. They conducted a survey of 3,000 Palestinian families in the period before the siege was "eased". According to the results, a quarter of the sample had to evacuate their neighbourhoods and 39% of their homes were partially or totally destroyed because of the Israeli assault. By the end of the research study in August 2009, only 25% of the demolished houses had been repaired to some degree. Seventy percent of the people sampled are still dependant on aid and 59% describe their circumstances as "poor".

A study on the realities of childbirth under siege, in which 5 obstetricians and 11 women were interviewed, shed light on the horrors facing Palestinian women who are pregnant. One woman said that the worst part of her pregnancy and labour was when darkness fell: "I was thinking, what will happen if the baby starts to arrive? How will I react? They [the Israelis] were even targeting ambulances. It was a nightmare… I would breathe a sigh of relief every morning."

Kulood Nasir, from the Ministry of Education, examined children's nutrition and its effect on their health. She examined 2000 children and found that one out of four did not have any breakfast, with 10% developing anaemia, a particular cause for concern. She also found that 1 out of 17 children have growth problems, 2% are underweight and 15% are obese.

The study concluded that there is a real need for a comprehensive and effective school-based nutrition system that targets children in all age groups, with a special focus on adolescents.

Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi-London

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