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Shortage of medicines felt by patients in Gaza

Nov. 7, 2010 8:57 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 9, 2010 1:02 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Tamer liked football and won a bronze medal twice in school competitions. Today, he lies on a hospital bed at Gaza City’s Ash-Shifa Hospital.

The 14-year-old's hands and feet are tied together with four sacks of water weighing one kg each. This is temporary until he undergoes surgery in five days.

He's from Al-Yarmouk in Gaza City. On his way back home Thursday, thinking of his mother’s omelets, he crossed the road carelessly. A speeding car hit him breaking his left thigh bone and tearing his school bag. The bag was donated as well as his clothes, and his father can’t afford to replace them.

To complicate the situation even more, says Tamer’s mother, doctors have not tested Tamer, and it is only nurses who take care of him. They ask his mother to by medicine from pharmacies outside the Strip "because the hospital is short of even bandages, medical gauze, and pain killers."

Next Tuesday, orthopedic surgeons will attempt to resent a broken bone, and if that does not work, he will be taken to hospital in Israel.

On top of all this, the car which hit Tamer had no license and no insurance, and the driver can’t afford to cover expenses. However, he paid 500 NIS, which is enough for one night in hospital. The driver’s family wants Tamer to be back home by any means because they can’t afford to help the driver with the heavy expenses.

Ma’an asked the Hamas government’s director of pharmaceuticals Muneer Al-Barsh about the situation.

He said the Gaza Strip’s hospitals had more than 7 million pills of Diclophen painkillers, which is 5 million overstock, as they only need 2 million. He said doctors who work in public hospitals and medical centers prescribe this pill, but private doctors can prescribe others, but the ministry does not have to pay for that.

“Those who want to pamper themselves choose to buy other kinds of painkillers,” he said.

As for other requirements, Al-Barsh asserted that hospitals in the besieged Strip are short of 100 types of medicines and 160 types of medical requirements such as cotton, gauze and other stuff.

He explained that the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health was mostly responsible for that shortage because in 2008 they delivered to the only 48 percent of the needed medical equipment; in 2009, they sent 50 percent and in 2010, only 37 percent has been delivered. He noted that the World Bank pays for 100 percent of equipment costs.

Gaza faces a political crisis, and the first to suffer are always average civilians.

“These requirements should be delivered as needed so that we can give them to patients. There is no problem with painkillers, but rather with basic medicines and medical requirements,” Al-Barsh asserted.

Asked about the tons of medicines and medical equipment the Gaza Strip receives through solidarity activists who keep arriving to the Gaza Strip, he said, “They can’t bring every medication and medical device for all 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip.”
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