Gaza's shortage-stricken hospitals crumble under the Great Return March inundation
"It is a catastrophic situation," Dr Munir Albursh, head of the pharmacies department with Gaza's health ministry, told The New Arab, noting that the ministry currently suffers from shortage of basic medical supplies.
"With the mounting numbers of injuries, caused by Israeli army shootings on the border lines, we in the ministry have recently run short of essential medicines and supplies, needed for surgical operations," added Dr Munir.
"We are calling on all concerned bodies to provide us with the supplies needed."
A couple of months ago, the Qatari ambassador to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, Mohammad al-Maadi, provided the health ministry with $9 million to help health officials cope with the shortage of fuel and other supplies needed to run Gaza's government-run hospitals and clinics.
But with numbers of wounded protesters growing as the Great Return March goes on, this is proving to not be enough.
|Read more: Will 2018 bring a third intifada in Gaza?|
In the first day of the Great Return March on March 30, the ministry provided $1 million worth of medical services to more than 1,000 wounded Palestinians. Last week, the West Bank-based health ministry, was reported to have sent out a shipment of medical supplies to Gaza.
"We have been waiting for one week now, but nothing has come into our stores," Dr Munir confirmed during an interview with The New Arab.
Gaza's hospitals already suffer from a shortage of supplies and medicines but the situation has become even more strenuous for many medical professionals as the Great Return March continues. More than 30 people have been killed in three weeks of peaceful protests and at least 4,200 people have been wounded.
The Palestinian health ministry's hospitals, including the largest medical compound al-Shifa, have been coping with the large cases of injuries, particularly critical ones.
|With the mounting numbers of injuries, caused by Israeli army shootings on the border lines, we in the ministry have recently run short of essential medicines and supplies, needed for surgical operations|
Lack of advanced medical care
Surgeons at al-Shifa hospital speak of their inability to save body parts of more than 40 wounded young men from being amputated.
Nineteen-year-old Yousef Alkruz was one of the three most critical cases. His left leg was amputated following a gunshot wound and he now requires advanced medical care.
He was injured on the eastern parts of the al-Bureij refugee camp, in central Gaza Strip.
"I was about 700 metres away from the border fence, taking photos of demonstrators and those wounded by tear gas and live bullets, as a part of my freelance photographing job," Yousef revealed.
"I was laying on my abdomen when I received the gunshot," he told The New Arab, as his doctor Dr Tayeseer Altanna stood by his side.
The chief surgeon at al-Shifa hospital, Dr Tayeseer Altanna spoke to The New Arab about Yousef's injury in more detail.
"Such injuries are abnormal as a gunshot leaves a relatively large cavity in the leg and in most cases, it penetrates through the other leg. But in Yousef's case, the bullet has caused complete devastation of the senses," Dr Tayeseer said.
"When you touch his foot, you will find that it is very cold," he added.
|Nineteen-year-old Yousef Alkruz was one of the three most critical cases. His left leg was amputated following a gunshot wound and he now requires advanced medical care|
The day after speaking to The New Arab, Dr Tayeseer, along with his team of surgeons at al-Shifa hospital, amputated Yousef's leg from above the knee.
Yousef now requires advanced medical care that is unavailable at al-Shifa hospital. Dr Tayeseer warned that this was the case with many wounded patients at the hospital, but also revealed that such special care could not be provided at a time where Gaza's hospitals are dealing with such large number of cases.
Although Yousef's family members have his referral papers, he has been unable to move to the Nablus-based Arab Consultancy Hospital in the West Bank for further treatment. Due to border restrictions imposed by Israel, as well as the closure of the Rafah crossing terminal, Yousef has been left stranded without advanced medical care outside of the coastal enclave.
"I just need to get to the West Bank so I am not forced to spend the rest of my life with a disability," Yousef told The New Arab.
"I feel desperate and I have almost lost hope of moving ever again," the 19-year-old said, urging all parties concerned to intervene so he can get the needed treatment.
Yousef's critical injury is just one of the many that Israeli soldiers, stationed on the other side of the border, inflicted on peaceful Palestinian demonstrators during the Great Return March.
|Read more: Why Gazans are risking their lives to protest at the Israeli border|
Crossings need to be reopened
Local and international bodies have been calling for the reopening of land crossings and the easing of movement for Palestinian patients in and out of the coastal territory.
Most recently, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza called on Egyptian authorities to reopen the Rafah crossing terminal, south of the territory. The terminal is considered a main outlet for Gaza's two million residents to the outside world.
|We have only received a limited amount of supplies so far... This is not enough, we need more medical assistance|
"We have only received a limited amount of supplies so far," Dr Ashraf Alqedra, spokesperson for the Gaza-based health ministry, told The New Arab.
"This includes emergency medicine and some other medical supplies for bones treatment. This is not enough, we need more medical assistance," Dr Ashraf adds, revealing that the ministry spent almost $1 million after the first day of demonstrations.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and other health bodies in Gaza and outside of the Gaza Strip, have voiced deep concern over the current situation in the region.
"We have managed to evict hundreds of injured people from the border areas," Suhair Zaqout, spokesperson for the ICRC in Gaza, told The New Arab.
"But hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of injuries. All parties now have to do what they can to avoid exposing civilians and children to harm," Suhair added.
When asked about the referral of critical cases to hospitals outside of Gaza, Suhair deemed it unlikely noting that the closure has been in place for 11 years now.
|Read also: 'Staring at freedom a footstep away': How Gazans struggle to leave through the Rafah border|
"All the humanitarian concerns for the ICRC in Gaza are discussed confidentially and bilaterally with Israeli authorities," Suhair said. "There are contacts between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and Israeli authorities."
The Palestinian Authority's Civil Affairs ministry usually coordinates entry of patients and others into the West Bank or Israel. In some cases, Israel turns down paperwork, produced by the ministry and prevents entry of a given individual, either patient, trader or a regular traveller.
As the Great Return March continues, things seem unpredictable. So far, the death toll in Gaza stands at 33, while the number of injured is estimated at 4,200, including women and children.
Yet, the Israeli military has recently warned that it will use more force to crackdown on Palestinian crowds. This comes amid growing international and local criticism for Israeli military officials. United Nations Human Rights Council has even hinted at the possibility of Israeli military leaders being brought to justice over the human rights violations against the peaceful Palestinian protesters.
Rami Almeghari is a Palestinian freelance journalist living and working in Gaza.
Follow him on Twitter: @writeralmeghari