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UN: Gaza public health system 'on the verge of collapse'

Aug. 3, 2014 1:04 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 5, 2014 11:36 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The United Nations warned on Saturday that after 27 days of Israeli assault, the Gaza public health system was "on the verge of collapse" as the numbers of dead and injured overwhelmed hospitals and clinics across the besieged coastal enclave.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories said in a report that five hospitals and 34 clinics have "shut down due to damage and insecurity."

The report said that 12 hospitals have been damaged since the beginning of the Israeli offensive, while 14 primary health clinics had been hit.

"Nearly half of all clinics in Gaza (34 out of 75) have closed, primarily due to insecurity, including all those located within the three kilometer buffer zone declared by Israel," the report added, referring to the 44 percent of Gaza that has been declared off-limits for Palestinians.

"Hospitals are increasingly forced to discharge patients prematurely, to accommodate newer and most urgent cases, even though these patients often do not have any place to go to, let alone an adequate one."

The report also stressed that the almost complete reduction in electricity supply since Israel bombed the Strip's sole power plant had made hospitals dependent on "unreliable back-up generators as their main power source."

"Constant fluctuations in power supply have resulted in the malfunctioning of sensitive medical equipment, including ultrasound, X-ray, laboratory machines, cardiac monitors, sterilizing machines and infants’ incubators."

At the same time, thousands of people continued trying to seek refuge in hospitals given the lack of adequate shelter available for the more than 450,000 Gazans who have been displaced.

This inflow was constantly disrupting hospitals abilities to operate, as the displaced used bathrooms and other facilities to wash their clothes and take care of other necessities.

The report expressed specific concern for the obstetrics units, as "nursing attendance in the maternity department of al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, was reduced in the past days to 40 per cent," while the Harazeen Maternity Hospital in Shujaiyya had been completely closed.

"It is feared that the recent closure of Shifa’s antenatal services for high-risk pregnancies may have an impact on fetal and maternal morbidity and mortality."
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