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Children with cystic fibrosis in Gaza in 'mortal danger'

Palestinian Authority’s regular monthly budget for Gaza medical supplies had been $4 million, but dropped to a mere $500,000 in May 2017
Newborn babies at the intensive care unit are seen at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on 27 June, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Newborn babies at the intensive care unit are seen at the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on 27 June, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Tens of Palestinian children being treated at a Gaza City hospital for cystic fibrosis are facing possible imminent death, relatives and medical sources told Ma'an, amid what rights groups described as the worst medication crisis the besieged Gaza Strip has seen in years, stemming from debilitating budget cuts by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The PA has been the centre of widespread condemnation in recent weeks for its policies in Gaza aimed at putting pressure on Hamas to relinquish control of the besieged coastal enclave and hand over the territory to the PA.

The main victims of the current medication crisis are cancer patients, infants with developmental deficits, and hundreds of cystic fibrosis patients, according to a report last month from Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI).

Read: 2,500 patients 'in danger' with no access to medical care in Gaza

Information gathered by PHRI showed that the PA's regular monthly budget for Gaza medical supplies had been $4 million, but dropped to $2.3 million in April, and to a mere $500,000 in May. As a result, one-third of essential medicines and more than 270 medical equipment items for operating rooms and intensive care units have vanished from the health ministry's storerooms or in Gaza's hospitals.

Chairman of the Association of Cystic Fibrosis Patients in Gaza Ashraf al-Shanti has said that over 320 cystic fibrosis patients are in mortal danger. He said the patients require 40,000 Cryon pills, but storerooms were already completely empty as of mid-June.

'Alternative Medicine making conditions worse'

The parents of young cystic fibrosis patients being treated at Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi hospital west of Gaza city told Ma'an that the life-saving medication has become a "distant dream," and also reported that alternative medicine being provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry is actually worsening the conditions of their children.

#GazaSiege

Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, the father of six-year-old cystic fibrosis patient said that his son's illness has drastically deteriorated since the medicine disappeared from storerooms and hospitals in the small Palestinian territory, which is meanwhile struggling to cope with just a few hours of power per day as a result of an agreement between Israel and the PA to slash electricity supplies.

Al-Yacoubi said:

I used to take my son to al-Shifa Hospital to get the medicine, but it has been unavailable for the last six months. The ministry of health provided an alternative for the medicine, but it only made my son's condition grow worse

The man said that his son is facing the possibility of death "at any moment." Al-Yacoubi's first son, who also had cystic fibrosis, died for want of treatment when the family could neither find medication in Gaza nor obtain Israel's permission to leave the blockaded coastal enclave for treatment at Israeli hospitals.

The father demanded that the competent authorities solve the medicine crises and "not to involve medical patients in political conflicts."

 

In addition to the PA's budget cuts to medication and fuel, reports also emerged that the PA has been preventing Palestinians in Gaza from leaving the territory for medical treatment. To leave Gaza via the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing to receive treatment in the occupied West Bank, Gazans must first apply to the PA before applying to Israel.

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