Gaza crisis: At the doctors – in a warzone

Ali, Gaza

19 April 2024


1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza have had to flee their homes and now live in crowded conditions where basic sanitation has broken down. Most of the displaced have no access to safe water, while an average of 160 people share one toilet, and 700 people one shower facility.

The impact this has on health is devastating. The lack of clean water and sanitation, in addition to a lack of food, sleep, and water, creates fertile ground for the rapid spreading of diseases. Over 586,000 cases of acute respiratory infections and over 220,000 cases of diarrhoea have been reported in Gaza since October, in addition to a high prevalence of scabies, skin rashes, and Hepatitis A. All of this in addition to people dealing with severe injuries from shrapnel and battling with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

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Since October, CARE and our partners have been able to reach nearly 90,000 people in Gaza with much-needed medical support including donations of mobile medical equipment and medicines. In Northern Gaza, CARE partner Juzoor for Health and Social Development is one of the few organisations still operational in northern Gaza. CARE spoke with a doctor and families visiting a health centre run by Juzoor. Here’s what they told us.

Doctor Mohammad: “I hope the world will stand by the displaced and sick people.”

Dr Mohammed, Gaza

“I have been a doctor working for Juzoor for seven years, but the past half year has been the most challenging time of my life. There is so much need, almost everyone is sick. The most vulnerable people are children and women. The situation of pregnant women and lactating mothers is critical. Many women cannot give enough milk to their children because they themselves are malnourished.

We have opened these health centres to support people suffering from all sorts of diseases; some caused by the poor sanitary conditions, some by the war. I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I hope the international community can increase pressure on everyone involved to end this war. I hope the world will stand by the displaced and sick people, helping them return to their homes and get their lives back to normal.

Amal, 35, mother of five children: “I feel the exhaustion is in every cell of my body.”

Amal, Gaza

“Before the war, life was good. We were healthy and my husband and I enjoyed life with our five children. Since October 7th, life is dictated by pain, both physical and mental suffering. Our life was turned upside down.

What I miss most is feeling safe and comfortable. There is no comfort at all anymore. I feel the exhaustion is in every cell of my body. We’ve all been sick this past half year. We do not have enough water and food; all we eat most days is rice. We were always shivering from the cold at night, especially during the winter months. Five days after we fled our home, I was hit by missile fragments. They haven’t been removed, and the war has literally encroached on my entire life, even my body.

I am very thankful for the Juzoor health team. I used to come here every day and they would change my bandages. They treated me very well. When my little daughter was sick, they even opened at 10pm to help her.”

Dr. Ali, 65: “I am scared what will happen if the medications are not available anymore.”

Dr Ali, Gaza

“I used to be a professor at Al Aqsa University. I retired recently, and I was really looking forward to spending time reading and writing, enjoying playtime with my grandchildren. But life had a different plan for me.

“More than anything I miss being with my family. We have fled to so many different places since the war started. A few weeks ago I was trying to get some food from the market when another bomb struck and I had to flee. I was separated from the rest of my family. My wife and children are now at a different shelter. I really miss them a lot.

“I suffer from breathing issues; they have gotten a lot worse since the war started. The dust from all the bombing and the lack of water sometimes makes it unbearable. I also have high blood pressure and take cholesterol medication to avoid having a stroke. Thankfully, the doctors and nurses working for Juzoor help me a lot. But I am scared what will happen if the medications are not available anymore. I used to have money and was able to buy for my family whatever we needed. We have run out of money now.

Sara, 36, mother of five children: "The health team is a true blessing in this dire time"

Sara, Gaza

“Life has become so tiring, both psychologically and mentally. I cannot sleep, and my thoughts and fears are keeping me up all night. How am I going to feed my children tomorrow? Are we going to have a few sips of water to drink? Will the children cry again tomorrow, afraid of the bombings, and suffering from illness all the time?

I also worry about my own health. Since my last pregnancy, I suffer from high blood pressure. The stress, sadness, and fear this war are inflicting on me cause me to be in pain most of the time. When I get really bad headaches and feel dizzy, I come to the health post here. The health team is really helpful. They are a true blessing in this dire time.”

Ali, 40: “This war is happening now, but what about my children’s future?

Ali, Gaza

“The main thing that I can think of is that I want to keep my children safe, and that I want to make sure they can eat. I can already see the impact these past months have had on them in terms of lack of water and food. They are sick all the time, and they are not getting the vitamins they need. It kills me inside to think that this might also impact their lives longer-term. Our children are not getting the vaccinations they need either, and they lack the immunity to cope with the lack of nutrition, lack of clean water, and the unhygienic conditions we are living in. This war is happening now, but what about their future?

Juzoor has saved many lives here. The doctor performs surgeries under the worst circumstances; people would have died had he not removed bullets and missile fragments from their bodies. Juzoor makes us feel like there is someone who cares for us. They are with us. The doctors could have left but they didn’t. What I think is very important is that they also provide some psychological help for us. We are all suffering from anxiety, fear, loss, and are in shock about what is happening. These wounds might not be visible, but they are there with us with every breath we take.”

How you can help

CARE and our partners are responding to the urgent needs of innocent people in Gaza. We are prioritising safe water, medicine supplies and short-term shelter kits. You could help us save lives.

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