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Gaza Crisis January 09

On 27 December 2008, Israel began a bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The escalating violence has killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians and worsened the already dire plight of 1.5 million people. They are trapped in Gaza with rapidly diminishing food, water, fuel and medical supplies. CWS has launched an urgent appeal to help its partner in Gaza provide food, emergency supplies and medical assistance. Please donate online, phone 0800 74 73 72 or download the appeal leaflet

Updates on the situation are being added below as we receive news from our partners in ACT International and the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, Middle East Council of Churches. See also:

Statements on the Crisis

Background

Prayer for Gaza

 NZ events and actions

 

News from our partners

 

 

 ACT: Gaza hospital under fire

JERUSALEM, 10 February 2009--The air strikes and the shooting have stopped, and the troops and tanks have fallen back across the border, but like many people in the Gaza Strip, Suhaila Tarazi can’t quite believe that the violence has ended.

At the hospital where she is director, life is slowly returning to what passes as normal in a health facility where, because of Israel’s blockade of the strip, supplies are always short.

There are blast marks on a wall from a shell, bullet holes in the roof and plastic instead of glass in a number of windows. But the flow of new admissions is back to manageable proportions from the 20-40 wounded who arrived daily during Israel’s 22-day incursion into Gaza.

More than 40 percent were women and children – mainly suffering from shrapnel wounds. Miraculously most survived, but not all. Tarazi is visibly moved as she recalls a six-year-old boy who bled to death after being hit by shell fragments close to his school.

Medicines, laboratory agents and fuel all remain in short supply at the 50-bed Al Ahli Arab Hospital, hospital, run by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem and supported by members of the ACT International alliance.

But Ms Tarazi remains undaunted. "Our philosophy is to provide health care without discrimination of religion, gender, political affiliation and social class," she says. "All patients are equal.
That’s the church’s mission, to help the needy without differences.

"Every moment for 24 hours of each day during the war it was a challenge for us. Thank God we could do something.

"But it was a real massacre in Gaza. Our homes were not safe, the hospital was not safe, the schools were not safe, the streets were not safe. The fear they have put in the hearts of the children – it’s not easy to forgive but we have to. We just hope this will stop, that peace and justice will prevail.

"All of us are really traumatised in some way or other. We need time to restore our normal spirit. If a door slams, you see the fear in our faces."

The hospital, in the heart of Gaza City, is the oldest on the strip, dating back more than 100 years. A light, airy British colonial style building, it boasts some 18 doctors, 45 nurses and
12 technicians.

As well as medicine and general surgery, it offers paediatrics, urology, orthopaedics, X-rays, coronary care, specialist burns care, screening for breast cancer, and free food for the elderly, particularly women.

Financial support comes from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which pays for the treatment of some cases, to the tune of US $90 per patient per day. The patient is expected to contribute a further US $10. Outpatients are also expected to pay a token amount and donations of services, supplies and cash are always welcome.

"Even before the incursion, the siege affected us greatly," says Ms Tarazi, referring to the severe limits Israel has placed on the imports of food, medicine and other essential supplies such as industrial and agricultural parts into Gaza since Hamas took over the strip in 2007.

"We were already unable to get medical supplies in times of want, and could not refer patients to hospitals outside Gaza – so many have lost their lives while waiting for a permit.

"Fuel was short. The power station could not supply electricity
24 hours a day because of restrictions on fuel. A hospital without electricity is just a building. We have a generator but a generator without fuel is no good. This means we have had to minimise the number of days we offer operations to three days a week."

The shortages that existed before the incursion still exist today, but during the incursion, matters got worse.

"During the fighting there was no electricity in Gaza," said Ms Tarazi. "We ran short of food for our patients, and medical supplies. Supplies of drinking water also ran out, so we had to boil water from the tap. Even so, it was very salty.

"The building shook and shook from the shelling, and glass in many of the windows shattered, so for ten days, until we get hold of some plastic, we had no protection from the weather. We ran out of blankets and during the cold weather with the windows blown out it was freezing.

"Because of heavy attacks in nearby neighbourhoods, families came to the hospital to be with their relatives – to have the hospital as a place of refuge. It was a burden, especially for food.

"And our X-ray machine stopped working, so we had to take the X-rays here and run to another hospital to develop them. We also acted as a referral hospital for serious cases from other hospitals in the city."

Tarazi, who in 1985 was recommended by ACT member Christian Aid to the British Council for a scholarship to Leeds University to study health planning and management, paid tribute to ACT International and its members for their support.

"They have done their best to help us get food and medical supplies. We are also grateful to CARE International and UNRWA."

 By Andrew Hogg, ACT International

 

CWS partners continue response despite access challenges
JERUSALEM, 2 February 2009--While some aid has crossed into Gaza, humanitarian access is still quite challenging, reports ACT International. Aid organisations continue to experience significant difficulty in sending staff and additional supplies into the area to support emergency relief work and begin recovery operations.

"Every morning at the Erez crossing, there are disappointed aid workers whose access has been denied," reported one ACT International member staff. This week, two shooting incidents inside Gaza have had a negative impact on access with Israeli authorities closing the Erez crossing on Tuesday and Thursday.

"While it has been easier to move inside Gaza after the ceasefire, we still have significant difficulties getting in and out," said Liv Steimoeggen, the ACT International  representative for Palestine. She added that it is very hard to give guarantees as to when trucks will actually make it through the crossings into Gaza.

By Mika Hentunen  ACT International

CWS partners through ACT International members have been able to deliver some initial assistance, including:

  • fortified milk to more than 18,000 people, nutritional biscuits to 23,000 people and other food supplies to 2,240 persons.
  • fuel for the Gaza National Blood Bank
  • food aid including hot meals for approximately 1,500 persons, vegetable baskets to approximately 7,000 people, canned food baskets to approximately 5,000 people and 9,000 kilos of powdered milk.
  • medicines, supplies and fresh bedding
  • psychosocial assistance

CWS has an emergency appeal for ACT International in Gaza

Bombed Gaza clinic to rise from the rubble
GAZA CITY, 30 January 2009--Constantine Dabbagh had prepared himself for the worst when he visited the ruins of the Gaza clinic for mothers and children run by his organisation which was
destroyed by an Israeli jet.

Nonetheless, the scale of devastation shocked him. "There was a heap of rubble, and some papers from files blowing about in the wind, and that was all. Nothing survived," he said. "We thought there might have been something we could keep as a memento of 40 years work serving the community, but everything had been obliterated. Only after digging did we find a couple of smashed machines.

"I cannot express how I felt. I didn’t cry, but my heart was aching. For humans to have caused this made it especially shocking."

It wasn’t until several weeks after the attack that Mr Dabbagh, aged 70, the executive director in Gaza of the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, was able to carry out the inspection. A Palestinian Christian, he was spending Christmas in Bethlehem when the Israeli incursion into Gaza started, and it wasn’t until the ceasefire nearly a fortnight ago that he was able to return home.

The clinic, in the densely populated Shujaiya district of Gaza City, was destroyed after people living in the flat above received a telephone warning from the Israelis to vacate the premises. A missile strike followed 15 minutes later.

The ACT International (and CWS) supported clinic was closed at the time because of the security situation, but the bombing destroyed medicines, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

One of only three clinics serving a population of 80,000, it offered pre and post natal care, and the services of gynaecologists and general doctors. It had also recently launched an ambition programme to visit 15,000 homes to check every child between six months and three years old for malnutrition.

"So much has to be replaced," said Mr Dabbagh. "We had a laboratory fully equipped for blood tests and ultrasound, and we had only just put in computers with a management information system. There was a six week stock of medicine and water purification equipment, as well as milk and nutritious biscuits for the malnutrition programme."

After visiting the ruins, Mr Dabbagh said a clinic operating out of borrowed premises would be up and running within days. "The community is very anxious that we continue, so we will be replacing what we can and starting from scratch," he said.

"The silence of Western governments in the face of incidents like this is the silence of the grave," he added. "After nearly 41 years of occupation we have to say enough is enough. We are humiliated and oppressed, enslaved and imprisoned. You reach madness if you do not believe in God. "It affects the young people particularly. They will not forgive anybody for what is going on. It is a tragedy."

Mr Dabbagh said the reason the building was targeted remained a mystery. He was adamant that it had not been used for military purposes by Hamas.

ACT International members report that it is the women and children who will suffer most from this destruction as they now have nowhere to go for vital health care in their neighbourhood until the new clinic is rebuilt.

By Andrew Hogg, ACT International

 

Gaza: "People still look at the sky", report ACT medical workers
JERUSALEM, 27 January 2009--Little by little, the long-term effects of the three-week war are emerging among the population of Gaza. ACT International supported medical workers report that people intuitively still look at the sky for planes every time they leave their homes, and then once on the street people are scared by loud voices or the sudden moves of others.

"Everybody is traumatized in one way or another," says Dr. Suhail Madbak, Dean of the medical school at Al Azhar University in Gaza.

ACT International is working to coordinate both national and international psychosocial assistance in Gaza to ensure effective and appropriate care for those most traumatised by the war, particularly children who are suffering from various symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

"They are afraid to sleep alone and are sticking to their mothers. Some are unable to study," describes Dr. Salem Al-Adadlle, the Director of the Shaja'ih clinic in Gaza.

The effects of witnessing war and conflict, particularly the deaths of loved ones and friends, can cause lifelong trauma. Fifty-four percent of Gaza’s population are under 18 years old.

"Any loud voice stirs a reflection in their faces," tells the Director of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, Dr. Suhaila Tarazi. She also says little children are especially shy to leave their mothers.

"We are organising limited counseling and social services right now," Tarazi says. In the coming days, psychosocial workshops, trainings, and group therapy and debriefing sessions will begin to assist more than 4,000 affected children through local networks and community centres.

Additional water on the way
Members of ACT International are working with a local Palestinian water company, called Jericho, to purchase 150,000 bottles of mineral water. With tap water not safe to drink in Gaza, these 1.5 litre bottles will be distributed together with milk powder for vulnerable mothers and their children.

Transport from Jericho to the Karem Shalom crossing usually takes three hours, but even before the latest conflict, trucks often had to wait at crossings for days. "I certainly hope it´ll happen this week. Everything is ready," reports Imad Hindi, the General Manager for Jericho.

Despite the current cease fire, significant humanitarian needs in Gaza still remain. ACT International members have transported eight trucks of aid into Gaza over the past two weeks, even while the fighting was still ongoing. Aid supplies have included food, milk, blankets and medical supplies for Gaza clinics, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, and distributions to displaced people living in camps and at UN Relief and Works Agency locations.

By Mika Hentunen/ ACT International

 

CWS partner restarts health programme    
26 January 2009
“Our colleagues in Gaza are going about their work with zest and determination. Every time I talk to colleagues in Gaza I feel encouraged that their spirits are up and that the situation is not depressing them but rather challenging them to give and to support others,” reports DR Bernard Sabella, Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), Jerusalem.
Following the destruction of its mother and child health clinic during an Israeli airstrike,  the DSPR has been replacing urgently needed equipment such as blood testing machine, ultra sound, laboratory equipment, furniture and other needs for the new clinic. They are awaiting replenishment of medications.
The DSPR Health Programme is readying itself for cooperation with the Gaza Mental Health Community Centre in post trauma response including training and treatment in its clinics. The vocational training centre has reopened.

Gaza in mourning
21 January 2009

CWS partners report that Gaza is in mourning. As the people slowly attempt to return to some semblance of normal they are counting their losses, grieving over destroyed homes and lost loved ones. Some 50,000 people are now homeless and 400,000 are without running water. Shops are open sporadically and by 7:00pm the streets are empty from cars unless necessary. It is a tenuous calm, but for the first time in three weeks people feel able to sleep soundly at night.

Eleven truckloads of food and medicines are currently en route to Gaza, with ACT International representatives calling for safe and open access to humanitarian relief.

ACT International is also providing psychosocial specialists to care for traumatized children, through a programme for care in war and conflict situations.  Through games and other activities they will assist children to get “back-to-life” while helping them deal with the trauma they have been through. 

CWS partner, Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, is looking for temporary premises to replace the bombed mother and child health clinic. Their priority is to restart a supplementary nutrition programme. 

ACT International representatives from alliance member, Norwegian Church Aid, have asked the Norwegian deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs to raise two issues with the Israeli government when he visits this week. First the lifting of the blockade:  "How can the people of Gaza have a hope for the future and live a normal dignified life as long as all movements and all activities are controlled by others?" The second is the question of compensation to rebuild the four Middle east Council of Churches’ health clinics, that were bombed by Israel during the offensive.

Latest toll - 20 January 2009
CWS partners report that the first estimates by independent surveyors have concluded Gaza lost at least $1.9 billion (US) in assets during Israel's 23 day military operation, including 4,100 homes, about 1,500 factories and workshops, 20 mosques, 31 security compounds, and 10 water or sewage lines. According to sources, 1315 Palestinians were killed and approximately 5500 were injured.

Food distribution between skeleton houses
GAZA, 19 January 2009--No bombs are falling over Gaza today and aid workers are now working hard to distribute food and medicine to the affected population living in the aftermath of 22 days of war. ACT International is operating two clinics with queues of patients and more than 15,000 displaced people are targeted for food distribution in the coming days. The distribution of dry canned food, water and medicine can now be done with significantly less risk, and the aid workers hope that the ceasefire will hold.

CWS partner, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees had one of its clinics bombed in an Israeli air strike last weekend. Two clinics remain, in Rafah and Daraj, and both are working at full capacity. The medical staff of the destroyed Shija’ia clinic has joined their colleagues in Daraj and is assisting with the efforts there. The expected visits of the patients and families are in huge numbers considering that the hospitals and tertiary care institutions are still coping with the injuries of the war.

ACT International staff worked till midnight Sunday by unloading 40,000 packages of nutritional biscuits for immediate use at the clinics. 100,000 litres of clean water from Jericho will be shipped to Gaza and distributed via the two clinics. Milk powder is also on the way. Ten tons has arrived in Gaza ready to be mixed with water.

Life is slowly returning to Gaza but the humanitarian needs remain high as people try to adjust to the new realities on the ground.

Death Toll Rises

Gaza 16 January - According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) on 15 January at 13:00, at least 1050 people have been killed since 27 December, including at least 85 women and 311 children. Approximately 5000 Palestinians have been injured, including at least 1552 children and 652 women. The death toll has risen dramatically as bodies have been discovered under rubble. The World Health Organisation WHO reported that
•    3 health facilities hit by direct or indirect fire.
•    Israeli forces shelled UNRWA's headquarters – three people injured.
•    At least 40 000 people displaced.
•    All Gaza City health facilities and electricity supply disrupted.

 

ACT International starts food distribution in Gaza
JERUSALEM 16. January - ACT International is ready to launch a major humanitarian campaign inside Gaza. On Monday distribution of food and water, medicines and blankets will start. ACT will cooperate with local organizations and foundations to carry out the dangerous distribution.  At the same time, ACT is assisting Palestinians in exile, struggling to get 330 tons of food into Gaza. The trucks are denied access from the Egyptian border. Now, the food has to be moved to Israel before new access to Gaza.

Dr. Andre Batarseh, director of East Jerusalem YMCA, is responsible for the high risk distribution of food and medicine. On his trucks are 8,000 blankets; a very important part of loads. “People have run from their homes and seek shelter at schools or at friends or relatives. They have no cover during ice-cold nights. The blankets are life saving”, Dr. Batarseh says. On the trucks are 100,000 bottles of water and food for 25,000 people, everything from canned food and fortified milk to cooking oil and water.

After the break down of sanitation in Gaza, ACT will distribute water-sanitation hygiene kits. Many organizations have left Gaza. Among those who are left is ACT-member DanChurchAid, busy with
distribution of vegetable baskets and canned food in Jablaya camp. The working conditions are complicated. 40 000 people have been displaced and all Gaza City's health facilities and electricity supply have been disrupted. ACT also assists the Union of Health Care Committees, which lost three mobile clinics in bomb attacks.

ACT International is also preparing psychosocial support for displaced and traumatized children. The organization has contributed this type of support to many responses, to help children return to normal life.

ACT is struggling with getting 330 tons of food into Gaza. The 11 trucks of food are from the small Norwegian emergency organization, Innocent. The organization is run by immigrants, mostly Palestinians. The food was denied access to Gaza from the Egypt border. ACT International has taken the responsibility to get the food in, and get it distributed.  Now it has to be reloaded to Israeli trucks and transported to the Kerem Shalom gate, where it again has to be reloaded to Palestinian trucks. It
has been a hard work through the last days with Egyptian and Israeli diplomacy and bureaucracy.

 

CWS’s Gaza Appeal is supporting ACT International in Gaza. Please donate now.

 

ACT: Appeal for 4 million US dollars, urgent for Gaza

Geneva 15. January - ACT International has sent an appeal for 4 million US dollars for immediate relief action on the Gaza Strip.

ACT represent more than 130 church based emergency agencies and churches all over the world.  The organization’s work has been set back, caused by Israeli attacks on their clinics in Gaza. The money will be used for food supplements, medicines, medical supplies and equipment, cash for food and cash for work, and psychosocial assistance.

Jobs for Palestinians
The appeal takes into account the escalation of violence and includes immediate relief activities for the period of three months. During the crisis phase, members plan to act together to bring in materials. The appeal will be extended until end of 2009, to continue the support to most vulnerable families by providing job opportunities, promoting income from agriculture, providing emergency relief, educational and medical supplies.
Some activities will be contingent on the future prospects of a ceasefire and increased stability within Gaza.

ACT has been hit
ACT members and implementing partner organizations have been targets of bombardments, resulting in casualties and immense damage. On 5 January, three mobile health clinics, supported by DCA, were destroyed in an Israeli air strike. The three clinics were built inside small trucks and were functioning as mobile health facilities in Gaza. On 11 January, Israeli missiles struck an ACT-supported clinic in Shaja’ih in Gaza city, run by the DSPR. The clinic is completely destroyed with all its equipment and medical supplies.

No access created desperation
ACT reports about widespread destruction of the civil, governmental and international infrastructure. Some 1.5 million people in Gaza - more than half of them children - are living in one of the world's most densely populated areas with no freedom of movement and no place to run or seek refuge from the conflict.
With access virtually cut off since late June 2007, poverty, unemployment, basic supply shortages and desperation in Gaza are mounting.

“No crisis”?
ACT mentions the UN warning of "critical gaps" in aid reaching Gaza and the concern for a major humanitarian crisis with 1.5 million people suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies in addition to the ramifications of the daily air bombardments and street fighting. A UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) spokesperson reports that the idea that of no humanitarian crisis in Gaza was absurd. On 12 January 2009, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported an increasing number of civilian casualties and a lack of basic food commodities. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are cooperating together through the coordination mechanisms.

While international efforts have been mounted to broker a truce, humanitarian access is limited and relief agencies are significantly struggling to gain access and transport humanitarian relief in a timeframe that is equal to the scope of the crisis, ACT reports.

Gaza: Critical for health workers, patients and hospitals

Jerusalem 15. January -- (ACT) Hospitals and clinics are bombed and destroyed, doctors and nurses hit, ambulances unable to fetch the wounded; that is Gaza today. World Health Organization (WHO) have issued an update on the health sector situation since Israel launched its military offensive in Gaza on 27 December.

This is the report:
- One paramedic killed 12 Jan.
- 18 additional patients expected to be evacuated via Rafah.
- Dorah Paediatrics hospital again was hit by shellfire on 13 Jan.
- 35 520 people displaced in Gaza by crisis.
- All hospitals have 8-12 hours partial power supply.
- MSF Spain in Jerusalem and MSF Belgium in Rafah still waiting to enter Gaza.

International Humanitarian Law requires all medical personnel and facilities be protected at all times, even during armed conflict. Attacks on them are grave violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights laws. Access to heath is a fundamental human right.

CASUALTIES
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) on 13 January, 971
people have been killed since 27 December, including at least 85 women and 311 children. 4418 Palestinians have been injured, including 1549 children and 652 women(1). WHO has not been able to independently verify these details.

OCHA reports that the number of people who have fled their homes in Gaza remains unknown, but is estimated in the tens of thousands, with the majority staying with host families. As of 12 January, UNRWA was operating 38 emergency shelters, with 35,520 displaced people. UNRWA has provided bread and drinking water to all shelters, tinned meat to the three southern districts of Gaza.

CASUALTIES TO HEALTH PERSONNEL
One paramedic was killed on 12 January. Since 27 December 2008, 13 health personnel have been killed and 22 health personnel have been injured while on duty according to reports from the health information centre of the MoH in Gaza.

DAMAGES TO HEALTH FACILITIES
Since 27 December 2008, the health information centre of the MoH in Gaza reports that:
- 15 ambulances have been damaged
- 11 health facilities have been damaged through direct or indirect shelling

Damage to hospitals:
Dorah Paediatrics hospital was again directly hit January 13. There is no information regarding continuity in the provision of emergency services. Dorah hospital has been closed since 8 January except for emergency services due to its proximity to an open conflict area and damage sustained to its infrastructure.Damage sustained by the Gaza European Hospital on 10 January has not yet been repaired.El Nasser Paediatrics hospital is still functioning with major limitations due to damage sustained on 10 Jan.

ELECTRICITY AND FUEL SUPPLY TO HEALTH CARE FACILITIES
All health care facilities are now receiving eight-twelve hours of electricity supply. Hospitals have received some fuel supplies. On average all MoH hospitals and the central drug store have 40 -50 percent of their storage capacity of fuel. UNRWA and WHO are working to ensure that hospitals are receiving enough fuel supplies.

HOSPITAL BED CAPACITY AND OCCUPANCY RATE
The Shifa hospital ICU remains overwhelmed. Some patients were evacuated but the ICU is functioning at almost full capacity, with more than 20 out of its total 30 beds occupied due to the low evacuation rate of patients through the Rafah Crossing. Shifa Hospital continues to try to keep the bed occupancy rate below 75% to allow space for urgent and emergency cases.

REFERRALS AND EVACUATIONS OUTSIDE GAZA
30 patients were evacuated 12 January through the Rafah Crossing. Another 18 were on route to Rafah for evacuation on 13 January (7pm). The number of patients evacuated through Rafah since 27 December is 248 (excludes those on route), most for injuries and some for chronic conditions.

Belgian authorities have offered to evacuate to Belgium seven children needing medical care with seven companions; they are en route today to El Arish. WHO is working with the MoH and Egyptian authorities on this issue.

As of 12 January, the Palestinian Health Liaison Officer had submitted 20 requests for evacuation of chronically ill patients through Erez Crossing.
Israeli authorities have granted seven permits, but patients are waiting to cross Erez. None exited today 13 January. The Palestinian Referral Abroad Department remains closed.

MEDICAL SUPPLIES
On 10 January, 203 tons of medical supplies and five new ambulances donated by several donors (Saudi, Jordan Turkey, Qatar, Libya, south Africa, and Arab medical society, Egyptian Sharia Society, Algeria, Morocco) crossed from Rafah into Gaza.

PRIMARY HEALTH CARE CENTRES
WHO remains concerned about public health and public sanitation in Gaza while waste management has not been assured and garbage is not collected in the Gaza Strip. The vaccination program has been seriously interrupted. There have been some attempts to operate in several centres. Reduced vaccination coverage could result in outbreaks, a risk increased by Gaza's high population density and dire living conditions.

MoH PHC centres:
- Fukhari clinic (Khanyounis)
- Mughraqa clinic (middle zone)
- Johor El Deek (middle area)

Of 58 PHC centres managed by the MoH, only 35 were functioning (with major interruptions) as of 13 January. The 1O PHC centres that have been converted into emergency evacuation centres continue to function. For the geographical distribution of functionality of the MoH PHC centres see Annex 1.

Bani Suhalia clinic (in Khan Younis District) and Shuhada'a Nusierat clinic (in Middle Zone District) are functioning as triage centres to back up hospitals in their respective areas.

- The use of PHC activities have dramatically declined since 27 December, according to the director of PHC. About 70% of chronically ill patients regularly attending PHC centres have interrupted their treatments and are no longer attending PHC centres. However, antenatal care (ANC) has resumed in all currently functioning PCH clinics.

On average, staff attendance is around 30% in all functioning PHC centers.

As a result:
- Most vaccination programmes (EPI and adult vaccinations) have been interrupted due to closure of clinics, unavailability of electricity or fuel at clinics equipped with generators, movement restrictions affecting distribution of vaccines and lack of staff. Today 13 January, in coordination with UNRWA, the vaccination program increased its capacity to operate to 45-50% in most of areas around the Gaza Strip.

- Dental care has been re-established in 7 PHC clinics out of 28 providing dental care, as follows:
- North Gaza: Shuhada' Jabalia center
- Gaza: Ramal clinic and Daraj clinic
- Middle zone: Zawayda clinic
- Khanyounis: Bany Suhalia
- Rafah: Shuhada Rafah center

- PHC laboratory services have been halted since military operations began due to lack of electricity, staff and laboratory re-agents.

- Nutritional surveillance has stopped because the main centre is closed as it is located in a risky area.

- School health services are not functioning since schools are closed and staff not reporting to work.

- Preventive medicine is not functioning due to lack of staff.

- Epidemiology department is not functioning since no information is flowing from peripheral facilities, hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties, PHC centres are not fully functional and laboratories are not reporting.

- Occupational medicine is not functioning due to lack of staff.

- Health education and promotion activities have been suspended due to lack
of staff.

An additional four MoH PHC clinics have closed during the past two days due to damage suffered during the conflict.

UNRWA PHC centres:
UNRWA reopened two PHC centres on 12 January. Three out of 18 remain closed: the Elshouka and Zaitoun centres were closed after IDF instructed people living in an adjacent building to evacuate prior to bombardment, while a centre in Beit Hanoun was closed due to being in a high risk area.

COORDINATION
WHO is coordinating the emergency health response through its offices in Jerusalem, Gaza, Cairo and Geneva, working closely with the Palestinian MoH in Ramallah and with health cluster partners.

Note
(1) The reason for the high increase in the death count is the identification of many bodies that were previously not identified or found under the rubble or in areas previously not accessible.

Gaza hospitals in horror: Burns from phosphorus bombs

Gaza City 15. January (ACT) An overwhelming number of patients in the hospitals at Gaza are suffering from severe burns as a result of the use of white phosphorous bombs by the Israeli army, report ACT International contacts from Gaza City. Additionally, people that remain in areas where heavy confrontation is taking place are afraid to leave their homes for fear of being targeted by Israeli Special Forces who are shooting at anything that moves.

“There are no rules anymore”
It is smoke, thunder and people screaming from their balconies while Israeli tanks push deeper and deeper into Gaza City. Nobody has been able to sleep since 2 AM. Children cover their ears, mothers cry and men have stopped talking. Among them is Suhaila Tarazi, director of the Al Ahli hospital. She is not at work. She lives five minutes from the El Ahli hospital, but it is too dangerous to leave the flat. “The attacks come from all over, now”, she says. “They attack hospitals, civilians. There are no rules any more.”

UN, schools, hospitals attacked
ACT International has gotten numerous reports from witnesses and UNRWA officials in Gaza confirming that Israeli-fired shells have hit the United Nations headquarters in Gaza. Three people are said to have been wounded and due to the rising smoke it is unclear at this stage whether there are any people stuck in the building. There are fresh yet unverified reports of fires in the UN warehouse containing flour. The UN headquarters consist of UNRWA offices, a school and storage rooms with large aid supplies and fuel trucks. Additional reports say that the headquarters of the Red Crescent and its hospital housing 500 people, staff and patients have been also hit along with another building containing the offices of International media. Israeli troops are concentrated around the Tal Hawwa neighborhood in Gaza City and there are reports of crowds of people fleeing their homes.

People keep indoors
According to our sources on the ground, an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 people on the periphery of the Gaza strip have moved inwards towards the cities and towns and away from the areas in which heavy fighting and bombardment is taking place. The majority of those people have fled to UNRWA schools and shelters in Gaza. Dr. Suhaila Tarazi got truckloads of medicine and blankets yesterday. “It was a blessing”, she says, “especially the blankets. For the first time our patients can get warm during the nights. All windows have been blown out during earlier attacks.”

Medical staff hit
The war also hit those who are healing the wounded. The daughter of a nurse was killed this morning. Now the family wonder how to have the girl buried. Dr. Suhaila Tarazi’s 15 year old niece, Christina Turk, died from fear. She had an asthma attack and couldn’t breath. She died on way to her aunt’s hospital.
Another nurse could not get home to her wounded children. One of them died. “It is very, very scary here, now. I wonder if I will survive this, Dr. Suhaila Tarazi says.

Flour shortage
In the areas of Khan Younis and Qararah, there are reports of flour shortages due to difficulty of distribution, although there are enough supplies to cover the area. The cost of one kilogram of flour has almost doubled rising from 3 NIS to 5 NIS. ACT staff in Rafah and the European hospital are safe and have decided to stay together in one house. Cash availability remains extremely low, with no liquidity whatsoever and many people left with no money to purchase groceries or domestic needs. Financial institutions and banks remain closed. In major areas of Gaza, electricity is on and off throughout the day, however, the Zaytoun area which is home to 80,000 people has not had any electricity for thirteen days.

ACT: Much-needed aid reaches Gazans

Truck inspection ACT Anna JonassonJERUSALEM, 14 January 2009--An initial three truckloads of ACT-supported food, milk and medical supplies have now reached Gazans in desperate need of assistance. Medical supplies have replenished scarce stocks at the Ah Ahli Arab Hospital and high-protein biscuits are being distributed to highly vulnerable children and nursing mothers who have sought refuge in UN schools and shelters. Dr. Suhaila Tarazi at the Al Ahli hospital says the deliveries will help a lot of people; especially children and breast feeding mothers, they have had nothing. The medical supplies will also help numerous injured people with their recovery.

Water crisis

ACT members on the ground also report an increasingly serious water and sanitation situation in Gaza. With the electricity only available for a maximum of four hours per day, the water crisis continues to build up with households either suffering from shortages or using unfiltered water. Some reports indicate that the Israeli army has denied requests, made by non-governmental and UN organizations, to allow the repair of damaged infrastructure or the distribution of diesel fuel to water pumps.

No outdoor movements

In light of the continued restrictions on movement, medical services are still on hold at clinics run by the Middle East Council of Churches’ Department of Service to Palestinians Refugees (DSPR). Both the medical teams and the patients are unable to transport themselves to the clinics. However, medical teams are standing by that upon the declaration of a ceasefire, medical assistance could begin immediately at two clinics. A third DSPR clinic was destroyed by an Israeli air strike earlier in the week.

The initial three trucks of aid included 12,000 cartons of high protein biscuits, 20,300 liters of fortified milk, blankets and quilts, and close to US $68,000 worth of medical supplies.

 

DSPR Update: The Aid will go through despite delays and attacks

Jerusalem, 13 January, 2009 - Our sources convey that there a three trucks full of medical supplies and nutrients on their way to Gaza from Ramallah. The trucks set out from the Betounya checkpoint in Ramallah and crossed into Israel after a four hour inspection of the goods by the Israeli army, and that was at around 10:30 AM. The logistics of delivering the goods to Gaza are quite tedious and lengthy, especially with the restrictions on movements, the constant fighting and bombardment, and the fact that International Organizations are also not spared being targeted by the Israeli army. The trucks are expected to be arriving at Kerem Shalom checkpoint on the Gaza borders at 1:30 PM, where they will be unloaded sample by sample and checked thoroughly before authorization for their entrance is granted. Once the inspection is complete, the checkpoint on the Israeli side will close and a gate will open on the Palestinian side where the trucks will unload the cargo unto different trucks awaiting on the other side. If there are no delays and no problems, the supplies are expected to be in Gaza by 7:00 PM and will be sent directly to the Al-Ahli Hospital. We will be sending out an update on the whereabouts of the supplies as we get more information.

There are reports that the UN will be streamlining all aid delivery in the Gaza Strip starting tomorrow morning. This means that all supplies and equipments will be handled in a centralized system whereby all truck transport into Gaza will be monitored and managed by UN Log with distribution by UN vehicles. The UN will establish two depots for transportation/warehousing of supplies entering the strip and a UN logistical distributing system. There will be fees incurred by the users of the new system.

Concerning the water situation in Gaza, the Palestinian Water Authority reports that all the pipes that are responsible for bringing out water from the cisterns are broken. The water pumps that connect the water to households are not operating and accordingly there is a shortage of water.
For those who do have supply, the water that reaches their homes is not filtered due to lack of electricity and there is fear of a breakout of diseases in epidemic proportions.

Movement remains severely restricted with reports of ambulances still being attacked even during the hours of "ceasefire". Our partners have come out with statements expressing their solidarity with the affected people and vehemently condemning Israel's irresponsible action in the Gaza Strip.

On a last note, it is important to convey that the MECC DSPR clinic that was destroyed in Gaza was storing six-weeks' worth of nutritional supplements from DanChurchAid, which have completely been destroyed besides the medications, infant and children supplies and all the furnitures and medical equipments of the clinic. In addition, an ultrasound machine which was recently bought and seven computers also recently purchased and which contained the files and history of the patients were completely destroyed. We are expecting a detailed list of damages and as soon as it is received, we will make an estimate of the losses and the costs of reconstruction, accordingly and we will include the cost of reconstruction in the revised ACT Appeal.

ACT: Food and medicines on way
GAZA, 13. January - Three truck loads of food, medicine and blankets from ACT International passed the border of Gaza Tuesday evening. The ACT coordinator in Gaza, Liv Steinmoeggen confirms that the trucks were unloaded at the Kerem Shalom checkpoint, and will be transported to the Al-Ahli Hospital, run by the members of the ACT network. The truckloads will be delivered tomorrow during the three hour "ceasefire". The hospital is about to run out of fuel and medicines. Al-Ahli is one of the few hospitals that still can operate in Gaza City.

From tomorrow, UN will be streamlining all aid delivery in the Gaza Strip. All supplies and equipments will be handled in a centralized system whereby all truck transport into Gaza will be monitored and managed by UN Log with distribution by UN vehicles. The UN will establish two depots for transportation/warehousing of supplies entering the strip and a UN logistical distributing system.

Concerning the water situation in Gaza, the Palestinian Water Authority reports that all the pipes that are responsible for bringing out water from the cisterns are broken. The water pumps that connect the water to households are not operating and accordingly there is a shortage of water. For those who do have supply, the water that reaches their homes is not filtered due to lack of electricity and there is fear of a breakout of diseases in epidemic proportions.

Movement remains to be severely restricted with reports of ambulances still being attacked even during the hours of "ceasefire". The situation is also critical for the medical supply. A clinic, destroyed in Gaza on Saturday, was storing six-week's worth of nutritional supplements, medications and infant and children supplies. All was destroyed, together with furniture, medical equipments, an ultrasound machine and computers, containing the files and history of the patients. Nothing is left.

ACT: The poorest lost their only heath care

 

JERUSALEM, 12. January -- The ACT International hospital in the densely populated Shijaiya in Gaza was reduced to rubble with all equipment and medical supplies completely destroyed Saturday, when the building was hit by an Israeli missile. The Health Care Centre will no longer be able too offer services to the residents in the neighborhood now, when they need it the most.

The Centre is located in the eastern borders of Gaza city, an area which is constantly bombarded and targeted by the Israeli army, with a high rate of casualties and wounded.

The building was targeted by F16 fighter jets of the Israeli Air Force. The Middle East Church Council, that runs the clinic, was renting its offices in the three store building. According to the church council, the Israelis were targeting the owner of the building who was residing in the upper part of the building.

The Health Care Centre was established in 1968 to tend to the needs of the Shijaiya community, which is known for its high population density and where the majority of the residents are living under the poverty line. Almost all residents in the clinic vicinity are in no state to afford any medical treatment, purchase of medicine, or doctor visits.
The Centre used to offer treatment free-of-charge and medical services to the public and was considered a valuable and very helpful clinic. The Centre had concentrated its service on pregnant women, children.

###
 

ACT: Teenager died from fear
JERUSALEM, 12. January --  fifteen year old girl from Gaza City died last week from fear. The heartbreaking story is told by her aunt, Suhaila Tarazi, who is the director of Al Ahli hospital in
Gaza. Aunt Suhaila was waiting at the hospital for the sick relative, but the teenager never arrived. She died on the way.

“She had asthma and was very scared when the bombardment started,” Suhaila Tarazi tells. “She was so full of fear that she couldn’t breath. Her father, who is a medical doctor, was not able to help her breathing, so they headed to the hospital.
She died during the transport, and never got treatment. Monday afternoon the war came closer to Suhaila Tarazi. The Al Ahli hospital was hit by machinegun fire, but no one was wounded. The hospital is run by ACT International through the Middle East Church Council. The hospital is struggling to continue its action for the sick and wounded population. All the windows are gone,
from earlier attacks. It is freezing cold for the patients and the situation is turning desperate. “We had applied for 10 000 liter of fuel. We only got 900 only. That will not last long,” hospital director Suheila Tarazi says.

###

 

 

ACT: Clinic destroyed by Israeli missile JERUSALEM --Israeli missiles struck an ACT-supported clinic in Shaja’ih in Gaza city, run by the Middle East Council of Churches. The clinic was totally destroyed, but no one was injured, since the building had been previously evacuated.

"The clinic is completely destroyed with all its equipment and medical supplies," reports Zack Sabella from the council’s Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees.

"Minutes before the missile hit the building, which hosts the clinic, the Israeli Air Force fired a warning missile next to it, forcing all residents of the building and the adjacent buildings to flee the area. A short while after, the army directly hit the building and razed it completely."

Two trucks for Gaza on Monday
Two trucks are ready for transportation of medicines, nutrition supplements and blankets to Gaza. Liv Steinmoeggen, the ACT representive in the area, says the trucks will enter Gaza on Monday.

ACT members are transporting food and supplies including 12,000 cartons of high protein biscuits, 20,300 liters of fortified milk, blankets and quilts, and close to US $68,000 worth of medical supplies in this first shipment. The delivery across the border into Gaza is coordinated through the UN, which is responsible for the transport.

Staff live at the hospital
The Al Ahli Arab Hospital, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, continues to receive and care for many patients each day who are injured, wounded or burned. Up to 40 new patients are seen each day and many of them require hospital admission and surgery.

The increased surgical load is placing additional strains on hospital staff and supplies -- anesthetics, suture material, operating room linens, equipment, bandages and the surgeons themselves. Until additional healthcare personnel are available, the hospital staff continue to work long intervals without rest and struggles against exhaustion. Some hospital staff are now staying in the hospital around the clock, adding to the hospital’s obligations.

In addition, Al Ahli is now receiving up to 15 patients per day that are referred from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Patients are also being seen, especially children, who are experiencing the effects of fear and psychological trauma. According to ACT member staff many Gazans will need psychosocial assistance after the war is over, especially since they have never experienced such violence by the Israeli army up to this current war.

Hospital without power
Large-scale efforts are underway to deliver needed material assistance to the Al Ahli hospital, but the procedures required for safe delivery impose security-related limitations on the amounts of supplies that can be delivered and the time required to get them to the hospital. The hospital is short of fuel which is required to continue operating the electrical generator because little electricity is available in Gaza. Without additional fuel soon the hospital will have no electricity, which would greatly impact its ability to deliver services.

No glass, no cash, no food
Glass windows and doors at the hospital have been shattered by nearby rocket and missile strikes. Glass is unavailable in Gaza at the present time for permanent repair, so the windows are temporarily covered with plastic rubbish bags until plastic sheeting becomes available for better protection from the cold.

Food is in increasingly desperate need. Efforts at this time are focused on providing nutritional products for the most vulnerable people, particularly children and nursing mothers.

An additional scarcity in Gaza is cash, as many banks are closed due to the lack of cash. During this time, the Episcopal Diocese is providing the cash necessary for the hospital to carry out its work and is also providing assurance that any debts incurred by Al Ahli Hospital will be honored.

### The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and ACT member, the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches, contributed to this report.

11 January 2009

 

 

 

ACT: Gaza situation report

JERUSALEM, --The movement of aid by the UN into Gaza is at a standstill, reports ACT members preparing aid shipments across the Gaza border.

"The UN workers who do the loading and transport of aid are on strike today, due to the lack of security for truck drivers, which was made clear by yesterday’s truck driver death. It is unlikely that any aid will be able to move into Gaza today," reports the ACT representative for Israel and Palestine, Liv Steimoeggen. The UN is responsible for organising the transport of aid shipments into Gaza, including aid supplied by ACT.

Damage increases and no cash
The devastation and damage in Gaza resulting from the ongoing Israeli military activities is increasing, reports ACT member Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR). The damage to infrastructure is especially large and it is hard at this time to estimate the level and cost of recovery and reconstruction needed after the violence subsides.

In terms of support to the affected population, with 80% unemployment in Gaza and the fact that all banks and financial institutions remain closed, there is no liquidity or cash in circulation. The economic cycle has completely stopped and a massive number of families are in need of some form of support, be it food, water, shelter or cash.

Children have seen too much
There is a deep concern as to the effect this war will have on the psychological state of children in Gaza. There is a significant demand for social workers, psychological specialists, and other human resources in this particular field. The children of Gaza have witnessed scenes of death, blood, demolitions, family loss and injuries in the midst of a general climate of fear and confusion. The feeling of insecurity, especially when the parents seem to be helpless in easing the fears and concerns of their children, might have a permanent effect on the personality development of a large number of children.

Three DSPR clinics in Gaza do not have such specialists on a permanent basis. A key need going forward will be skilled and well-trained psychosocial care specialists for up to six months after the violence stops.

Bombs hit close to clinics
Currently, heavy fighting and bombardment is taking shape in the close vicinity of each of the DSPR clinics, which renders them inoperative. The clinics are well-equipped to operate as emergency rooms once the situation calms down, with an average of six workers in each including nurses, midwives, pharmacists, lab specialists and service specialists.

Red Cross: Israel delays ambulances
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has suspended all forms of aid operations and delivery in protest of the latest Israeli attacks on its personnel. Some reports indicate that trucks containing flour and food have been targeted by the Israeli military, although there was constant coordination and communication between UNRWA and the Israeli army. As a result, the joint work between Palestinian non-governmental organisations and UNRWA is suspended and there are complaints that food and water is not reaching the entire affected population.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has officially complained that the Israeli army is deliberately delaying ambulances and in some instances shooting and targeting Red Crescent workers. Relief workers found four starving children sitting next to the corpses of their mothers and others in a part of Gaza city bombed and isolated by the Israeli army.

Training suspended
The DSPR vocational training centre in Gaza has not been affected nor damaged by the bombardment, although there are reports of glass being shattered. The centre has suspended all forms of training as the students are living far from the centre and since transportation and movement is impossible at this time. Studying will resume once the situation allows.

Eyewitness account
A priest in Gaza, Father Musallam, reports that the convent in the Zaytoun area was hit by shrapnel and that there are holes in the building. Additionally, the convent next to the camp (Deir Al-Rahbat) was also hit and some nuns were affected, and now both the Rosary Sisters and Mother Theresa Sisters have fled the Gaza Strip.

Father Musallam shared that he was looking at his sister's eyes this morning and all he could see is red. Bombardment is very close to where he is and he states that no one is used to such a level of continuous strikes. According to him, the current strikes are beyond the level of tolerance.

In some areas, Father Musallam says the economic situation is dire and one cannot buy the needed goods. He reports that the temporary daily truce is often breached by Israel, with sounds of bombardment being heard during that time.

257 children dead
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 257 children have died so far with an increase of 250 percent since the ground operation began. Children constitute 56 percent of the Gazan population. Overall deaths have reached 758 with more than 3,000 injured.

### This situation report is based on reports by ACT members Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA). ACT International will continue to give regular updates on the situation in Gaza and inform about the ACT response.

 

9 January 2009

 

 

 

ACT: Gaza situation report

This situation report was produced by the CWS partner, Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches.

 

JERUSALEM, --The situation in Gaza remains to be difficult and dangerous. Our contacts on the ground convey that there has been no electricity for over a week and as a result the water pumps that are used to pump water into households are not functioning and the sewage networks are flooding.

Power soon
In talks with Dr. Suhail Madbak, who is the dean of the medical school at Al Azhar University in Gaza and a member of the Board of DSPR Gaza, the top priority is the restoration of electricity to the deprived areas. There are apparent efforts by some foreign contractors to work on the damaged cables under the supervision of the Israeli military. It is expected that some areas will be receiving electricity in the next 48 hours.

Soldiers occupy people’s homes
The bombardment of Gaza is widespread as the Israeli army has divided the Strip into four different military zones with movement virtually impossible and the local residents are feeling unsafe about leaving their homes. Reports are coming in of ambulances and medics being targeted by the Israeli soldiers, especially while trying to tend to the wounded in the streets where the heaviest confrontations are taking place. In some instances, Israeli infantry have broken into several homes and have forced the residents to gather in one room on the bottom floor, while taking positions on the second floor and making holes in the walls for sniper rifles and binoculars.

Three hours rest
The resting time for the Gaza residents is from 13:00 - 16:00, which is the three hour time period when attacks are halted.  People are using this time of quiet to shop for food and water, although queues are extremely long reaching up to 400 meters particularly at bakeries, and there is a shortage in necessities such as wheat and flour. Many of the people are using this period to sleep as it is the only time of the day when there are no sounds of bombardment or shelling. According to our contacts, when an Israeli strike hits a particular target, all the adjacent buildings shake and in some instances the window glass is shattered, leaving many civilians unprotected from the cold or the sound of bombardment.

Clinics on the frontline
Contact between the office in Jerusalem and that in Gaza is ongoing since the first day of the Israeli attacks. For DSPR Gaza the three clinics for family health have operated on and off since the first day of the attack. At the moment all three clinics, one in Rafah and two in the Eastern and North Western parts of Gaza city are closed since they are in areas where military activities are ongoing. Accordingly, access to the clinics is virtually impossible although the plan was for these clinics to serve as emergency clinics for the casualties of the war. As soon as a semblance of normalcy is attained and military activities do not threaten the lives of patients and medical staff, the clinics will be reopened to receive both emergency and primary health care patients. The medical committee of the Gaza DSPR continues to exchange and consult with each other on the situation and takes decisions appropriate to the moment.

ACT Forum
The offices of DSPR Gaza are open and operating but on a restricted staffing as many of our employees and staff members cannot make it due to the ongoing military activities.  ACT Forum Palestine has been engaging the Gaza DSPR and other ACT Forum members in a variety of discussions on the needs and the means to help whether through shipment of medications and food supplements or in other ways.

8 January 2009

 

 

 

ACT: Food, medicine, blankets and trauma therapists headed for Gaza
GENEVA --Food, medicine, blankets and trauma counselors are being loaded into trucks by ACT International and are headed for Gaza. In cooperation with UN agencies, ACT has prepared the much needed assistance and is awaiting permission from the Israeli army for the trucks to enter the blockaded area.

Vulnerable people including infants and small children, together with their mothers, are the highest priorities. The need for emergency psychosocial care within the war-torn area is overwhelming.

"The best therapy for children is to resume normal life," says ACT’s representative in Israel and Palestine, Liv Steinmoeggen. ACT members are sending social workers and other qualified professionals to organise everything from women’s groups to soccer matches.

Gaza markets are empty, caused by the war and the ongoing Israeli blockade. Even with cash, Palestinians can’t buy food.  Trucks from ACT are now packed with tons of high energy biscuits for children. ACT will immediately start therapeutic feeding programmes for malnourished children, similar to interventions in hunger emergencies. ACT members report that there is a need for supplementary feeding for 80,000 preschool children, but only one in four children have received such supplements during the war.

Due to the complexity of the crisis and the potential for further violence, the distribution of food will be dangerous and complicated. ACT will operate together with UN agencies and distribute through Palestinian community representatives.

Emergency supplies including medicine and blankets are also needed at the Anglican Al Ahli Arab Hospital, reports Ms. Steinmoeggen. The hospital staff have been working around the clock, and nurses have been unable to care for even their own families, wounded by shrapnel from the bombs. During the bomb attacks windows have been blown out and patients are freezing in the winter temperatures.

The transport of food and medicines is just the first step in assisting the war-ravaged Gaza population. Asked how aid will be distributed once inside Gaza, Ms Steinmoeggen says she is afraid that it will be a dangerous operation.

 

7 January 2009

 

 

 

ACT Intl/DanchurchaidACT: Israel bombs three mobile clinics
GAZA --Three mobile health clinics have been destroyed in an Israeli air strike. The three clinics were built inside small trucks and equipped to function as mobile health facilities in Gaza. All three mobile clinics were bombed and rendered useless on Monday night.

The clinics were run by the Union of Healthcare Committees, an organisation started by Palestinian doctors and nurses, and supported by DanChurchAid, a member of ACT International. Since the conflict between Hamas and Israel started, the vehicles had been upgraded to provide intensive care to the wounded in Gaza.

The vehicles were parked by the Union of Healthcare headquarters and all were clearly marked with red crosses and the words "Mobile Clinic".

"The three mobile clinics were working just two days before in the north of the Gaza Strip as field hospitals to minimize the loads on the hospitals," says the Union of Healthcare Committees.

"We’ve been able to help the wounded and suffering so far, because our vehicles have been present and ready inside Gaza. This possibility of emergency aid is now in ruins. We are deeply shocked that the Israeli air strikes directly prevent the humanitarian aid effort", says Henrik Stubkjær, Secretary General of DanChurchAid.

DanChurchAid have granted additional funds for the purchase of a new vehicle for Gaza, but equipping it as a mobile clinic and deploying it in areas where help is needed will take time. DanChurchAid is looking into the possibility of supplying additional mobile clinics.

ACT members are currently coordinating their efforts and developing a plan of action for the next ten days of response in light of the significant humanitarian access challenges.

 

6 January 2009

 

 

ACT: Many injured civilians inaccessible, says Gaza hospital director

GAZA CITY --Civilians injured by bombings are stuck in their homes without food and water and are unable to seek medical attention, says the director of an Anglican hospital in Gaza City. Nurses working in the hospital are unable to reach their own injured children at home.

The ACT-supported Al Ahli Arab Hospital has treated more than 100 patients since the onset of the latest conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants. The director of the hospital, Dr. Suhaila Tarazi, has been working sixteen-hour days trying to make the best use of increasingly scarce resources. She shared the following report with ACT:

---------------

The situation in Gaza is worsening by the hour. Yesterday we received 17 patients suffering from bombing and shrapnel injuries. Most of the injured were civilians who were sitting in their homes. However, there are even more injured people in areas where they are simply stuck in homes without food, water and electricity -- and we are unable to reach them.

As some injured people do come to the hospital, we treat them and if they are stable then we send them home. We have treated more than 100 patients since the most recent attacks began. And we are currently housing 30 injured patients along with persons rejected from other hospitals. We are a church hospital and so we do not turn anyone away.

The hospital is in urgent need of medicine and supplies. There is no electricity in all of Gaza and so we are currently running off of generator power. We have very little supplies left -- enough to last for another week. If this crisis continues, we will be in a very dire situation.

The attacks are also hitting close to our area here in Gaza City. Yesterday, the main square beside the hospital was bombed
-- just 30 metres away. The attack left a big crater and injured seven innocent civilians who were just walking on the street.

And the crisis is also affecting the families of our own staff.

Yesterday, one of our nurses, Hania Murad, received a call from her husband while she was working here at the hospital. Her husband was calling for the hospital to send an ambulance to pick up her kids, who had been injured in a bombing. However, their home was located near the American School where are not allowed to go -- even with an ambulance. The Red Cross was also unable to send an ambulance into the area. For eighteen hours her kids sat waiting and injured.

One of Hania's children died.

This is the life of our staff. While their hands are working hard to save the lives of many, their hearts are at home with their own family.

CWS is a member of ACT which is currently coordinating their efforts and developing a plan of action for the next ten days of response in light of the significant humanitarian access challenges.

The Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City is a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, supported by ACT International members.

Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.

5 January 2009

 

Eyewitnesses in Gaza: 'They kill our children at home'

Bombs continue to fall while the population in Gaza sits by their open windows in the cold, holding their kids and telling lies to the youngest: 'It is just new year fire crackers!'  No one over the age of five believes it and the adults do not believe what the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tzipi Livni, said Thursday: “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Reports from Palestinians, who CWS and ACT International work with, have a different story to tell. The situation is described as 'horrendous'. Children are hungry, scared and cold. People have to stay in their homes, more or less exposed to the bombing, just hoping to stay alive.  Palestinian medical sources report that at least 421 people have been killed by the air raids in Gaza since last Saturday. Israeli officials report that four Israelis have been killed by recent Hamas rocket attacks.

Children are scared
Adults tell stories to try to distract children - to make the situation easier for them. 'No one goes out on the streets except if they really have to,' said Omar Almajdalawi from Jabalia in Gaza, an aid worker with ACT. He tells that most people now live with open windows, despite the cold, so that the glass does not break into a hundred pieces from the impact of missiles exploding in the area. 'I have never experienced a situation like this,' reported Almajdalawi.  'We keep awake at night to comfort our children every time something happens. Since the start of the operation, we have no electricity and now we have no water,' Almajdalawi reported. He also mentioned that due to the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip for the past few months, the population is already suffering from the scarcity of fuel, used for cooking in most Palestinian households. Now, without electricity and water and with gas running out, people hope against all odds that their nightmare will be soon over.

Danger to leave home

The director of Ahli Hospital, Suhaila Tarazi, and her staff fear leaving home to go to work. 'Not only are we suffering from the daily bombardment, we also we suffer from the continuous cut off of electricity, the shortages of food, water, basic commodities and the medical supplies,' said Tarazi.

Ali Mohammad Abu Shamaleh (30) lives near the Islamic University in Gaza. He is unemployed and married with two children. He described the situation as 'the worst since I was born'.  'It is a horrible situation... Bombardment everywhere, wherever you go you may die. You don't know where to hide or to keep your children safe and away from threats and danger. We spend every night in the kitchen to avoid any damage that could result from glass and shrapnel flying because of the indiscriminate shelling,' said Abu Shamaleh.  'We have food for the next two days. I don't know what to do then. I need a milk canister every week. When they shelled the Islamic University, my three-year-old baby nearly choked, he could not breathe nor cry. My wife was shocked and did not know what to do. I started crying and shouting randomly until the baby regained his breath. I am asking all those who believe in God to help us to stop this filthy war.'

'What did we do to tolerate this hell?' Abdellatif Yousif Abu Ayadeh (55) from Rafy is a father of a family of eight. He ha been unemployed for two years and has suffered two heart attacks. Abu Ayadeh and his family were obliged to leave their house because the Israeli troops shelled the nearby municipality building.  When nearby shelling took place, Abu Ayadeh reported, 'I felt as if my house was uprooted from its place. I don't have any place where to go or sleep. I am asking the whole world: "What did we do to tolerate this hell". I am praying to God to stop these destructive and offensive actions.'

'I lost my daughters'

Anwar Ba'alosha (38) lives with his wife and nine kids in a simple 50 square metre house in Gaza, which consists of two bedrooms. 'It's winter time, no electricity and I don't have any means for warming my house except some bedcovers and mattresses,' said Ba'alosha.  His 2-week-old daughter, 18-month-old son, wife, and himself were all sleeping in one bedroom and the other seven daughters slept in the other bedroom. 

 

All the time we listen to horrible sounds of Israeli bombings and intensive air strikes. But suddenly we heard a very loud explosion,' said Ba'alosha. He recounts how he was thrown up in the air as his house collapsed.  'People stopped me and told me, ˜Stop, you're bleeding' and they pushed me into an ambulance. I was fully confused and shocked. Splinters had struck my body everywhere. My wife was in a similar condition,' said Ba'alosha.  'Friends came later and told us that our kids were mildly injured. It was not so. Slowly I understood the news. I had lost five of my kids, all of them girls. And my house is totally destroyed.'

Ba'alosha added, 'I would like to thank God that I am poor, so the ceiling wasn't concrete. It was asbestos. Otherwise all of us might be dead.'

2 January 2009