BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The World Health Organization on Thursday said the closure of Gaza compromises the right to health and called on Israel to lift the blockade.
The health system in Gaza cannot function effectively under Israel's blockade, which entered its sixth year on Thursday, a WHO report said.
During Israel's 3-week offensive on the Gaza Strip in December 2008, 15 out of 27 hospitals were damaged as well as 43 clinics.
The Erez checkpoint, the main humanitarian access route for the critically ill, closes daily at 2:30 p.m. and all weekend. Outside opening hours, access requires lengthy coordination and can delay emergency treatment by at least two hours.
Gaza has run out of 42 percent of essential medicines, affecting oncology treatment, surgeries and dialysis. Israel does not allow the Health Ministry in Gaza to send medical equipment for repair.
Drug and fuel shortages have increased the need for referrals outside Gaza, funded by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
"The 5 most frequent reasons for referrals are for cardiovascular, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, or neurosurgery treatment," WHO says.
Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem are the main specialized centers, but Israel has denied permits to nearly 12,000 patients, or their requests were delayed past their hospital appointment date.
"In the past two years, 618 patients were called for interrogation by Israeli security after applying for a permit," WHO says.
The main Palestinian teaching hospitals are in East Jerusalem, but medics from Gaza are often denied permits to attend training courses.