Gaza's fuel crisis is a matter of life-or-death for children in stricken hospitals

Gaza's fuel crisis is a matter of life-or-death for children in stricken hospitals
Medics are praying the lights stay on at children's hospitals, as key life-supporting systems are under threat from Gaza's lack of generator fuel, reports Rami Almeghari.
4 min read
19 February, 2019
Doctors at Al-Nasser paediatric hospital fear the fuel crisis will kill children [RamiAlmeghari]
Sewar Alqassas is a five-month-old baby girl suffering from a variety of health complications.

For several weeks, she has been lying in bed at the Intensive Care Unit of the Al-Nasser Paediatric Hopsital, the main children's medical facility for Gaza's two million residents.

Sewar and many other sick children here are facing extra risks to their lives, as an aggravated fuel shortage crisis threatens power to key systems in the hospital.

Doctors here have expressed deep concern they will not be able to save their patients if emergency generators come to a halt.

Dr Raed Mahdi is the head of the ICU department at the Alnasser Pediatric Hospital. He has demanded Gaza's Hamas government step in to intervene and prevent any further deterioration of Sewar's health. 

"She suffers from septicaemia, and multi-system organ failure, including renal failure. She is on mechanical ventilation support and needs a session of dialysis once per day. And she needs all such support - mainly mechanical ventilation," Dr Mahdi told The New Arab.

"So she and the other eight patients we have here, need electricity - and without it, we would have to stop providing medical care for them all."

In Gaza City, health officials on Sunday called on local and international bodies to help ensure the supply of fuel for generators. Power outages in Gaza last up to 10 hours a day.

Dr Ashraf Alqedra, the spokesperson for the Hamas government-run health ministry in Gaza, reported that only 17 percent of the fuel needed for generators is now available. There are 13 hospitals in Gaza run by the health ministry.

"The health ministry needs 300,000 litres of fuel a month, and the ministry itself can not ensure such quantities," Dr Alqedra told The New Arab. "Consequently, we call on all relevant institutions to take direct steps to enhance the operation of hospitals and make sure to help them in the future. The next hours are decisive."

The Palestinian Authority's health ministry in Ramallah says no-one has contacted them over the ongoing fuel crisis in Gaza.

Spokesperson Usama Alnajjar told The New Arab that they had exerted "utmost efforts" over the past 12 years to help the health sector in Gaza stand on its own two feet.

"We turn to act is if we were an ATM machine for Hamas and its militias in the Gaza Strip," he said.

Alnajjar blamed Hamas for not accepting the rule of the Fatah-led PA:

"I do believe that such a situation will soon come to an end, due to Hamas' intransigence towards enabling the consensus Palestinian government of Ramallah. Consequently, I believe that Hamas should rather look for fuel in the houses of its leaders and militias. The fuel that is being provided by Qatar should be taken away from Hamas leaders' own tanks and be poured into the tanks of the hospitals instead."

In November, Qatar donated $15 million worth of fuel to run Gaza's power plant, under the auspices of the United Nations. The Qatari intervention also helped restore calm to the region, following an intensive exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas-led armed groups in Gaza.

In September 2018, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party addressed Hamas in the UN General Assembly, demanding the movement hand over full control of Gaza to a "consensus government" based in Ramallah.

Ramallah's constitutional court has also officially dissolved the Hamas-dominated parliament and the PA has warned of tough measures for the Hamas-ruled Gaza - unless Hamas joins with Fatah, as outlined in a December 2017 deal signed in Cairo.

Gaza-based political analyst Hassan Abdo told The New Arab that the Palestinian Authority itself had a responsibility to supply fuel to Gaza hospitals - even if they are run by Hamas.

"I do not think a Palestinian party depriving the other of basic services sends out a positive message about Palestinians, worldwide," he said. "Notably, it is the people and not any party that pay the price of such deprivation. Hamas is the last to be affected by the measures taken by Ramallah. I do believe that the Palestinian political spectrum should take the lead and solve the political division problem and make sure that Hamas is rather contained."

Over the past 12 years, the Islamist Hamas movement and the business-oriented Fatah party have been deeply divided. After Hamas won elections in 2006, internecine fighting broke out - resulting in Fatah being routed from the Gaza Strip and Hamas removed from power in the West Bank.

The international community shunned the result of the 2006 election, and subsequently demanded Hamas accept three key demands to win recognition; recognising Israel, renouncing violence and accepting past peace agreements with Israel.

"Sewar's life and the lives of other eight paediatric patients here remain under threat - unless concerned bodies intervene and solve this fuel crisis," said Dr Mahdi.

"We want an end to the problem, once and for all. Every time, we get worried about the lives of our patients. Instead of burning out and wasting time because of worry, we need to do our jobs smoothly and carefully, for the best for our patients."

Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza. 

Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari