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Gaza's health system at breaking point

The health care system in Gaza is at an “all-time low” with daily power cuts and vital medicines in short supply, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

"The dire situation in Gaza cannot be resolved by providing humanitarian aid," it said in a statement criticising both the Israeli blockade and bad organisation between rival Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza.

"The quality of Gaza's health care system has reached an all-time low," it said, referring to the border closures as "collective punishment" of Gaza's 1.5 million residents.

It came as Israel caved in to global pressure yesterday and agreed to reopen crossing points into Gaza for everyday goods.

Israel’s move was triggered by outrage at Israeli paratroopers’ deadly storming of a fleet of ships carrying aid a fortnight ago and criticism of its four-year Gaza blockade from the Red Cross. The easing of the blockade means that Israel will replace the current narrow list of items allowed in to the territory, with a specific list of banned goods.

Power cuts lasting for about seven hours a day "pose a serious risk to the treatment of patients," said the Red Cross, because it takes minutes for generators to start working.

"As a result, artificial respirators must be reactivated manually, dialysis treatment is disrupted and surgery is suspended as operating theatres are plunged into darkness," it said.

Fuel shortages have forced hospitals to cancel a surgery three times in the past year, the aid organisation said. It said 110 out of 470 essential medicines, including chemotherapy and haemophilia drugs, were not available in Gaza because of a lack of coordination between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

"The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse," said Eileen Daly, the ICRC's Gaza health coordinator. "Health is being politicised. That is the main reason the system is failing," she told Agence France Presse news service.

The blockade started in 2007after Hamas militants seized control of Gaza. Welcoming the easing of the blockade, Tony Blair, Middle East peace envoy said: “We hope very much we can start getting stuff into Gaza. There are also a whole series of United Nations projects which are ready to go. The UN has a specific way of getting material in — we are talking about repairing schools, the electricity, water, sanitation, housing — we can get that under way very quickly, I believe.”

Hayley attribution