‘We need medicines, food and fuel otherwise it will be a disaster’
Since Saturday October 7, at least 1,300 Israelis have been killed by militants and over 3,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza following days of airstrikes and bombardments by Israel which has caused widespread destruction of homes, schools and healthcare facilities.
The situation facing civilians in Gaza has been made even worse by a full siege, which is depriving more than two million people, half of whom are children, of food, water and electricity.
As of 17 October, it is thought that one million people, around half the population, have now been displaced inside Gaza, including over 300,000 people who are sheltering in UN run schools. Among those displaced is a Christian Aid consultant who said:
“It is not easy at all. This is the first time in my life I have experienced what it means to be a refugee. What it feels like to be evacuated from your home and not knowing when you will come back.”
On Wednesday 11 October Gaza’s sole power plant ran out of fuel and hospitals across the Gaza strip are having to rely on backup generators to function, but the fuel used to run these has almost completely run out, risking the lives of thousands of patients.
According to the UN, hospitals are treating more than 1,000 injured patients a day. Nasir (not his real name) is a doctor who works for a Christan Aid medical partner in Gaza. He recently described to Christian Aid the mammoth challenges faced by those working to provide healthcare amidst the violence.
“There aren’t enough words to paint a picture of what we are witnessing. The bombing is everywhere and every minute. You don’t know when and where they will bomb.
As Nasir explained, the impact of the full siege on Gaza as well as the ongoing bombardment has pushed hospitals to the brink.
“Hospitals have been depending on generators since the power plant in Gaza has stopped running. I’m not sure if the fuel that they have will be enough for even one or two more days. We are worried that in a few days’ time emergency life support and operations will stop.
“We are also worried about the incubators for the children who are born early and about the blood banks and blood donations at this time too because without electricity, it will be difficult to keep the blood.”
Nasir also relayed his fears for how the lack of electricity in Gaza will impact on hundreds of children in the care of his organisation who are trying to manage their chronic disease.
“We look after 340 children who are suffering from Type 1 diabetes and supply them with their medication each month. The medicine is given as an injection and is kept in refrigerators in our health centre. We have a generator there and until now we have had enough fuel but I don’t know for how long it will last. We are worried but we can’t do anything. We do our best to keep it in the refrigerator in a low temperature but if we haven’t fuel, there is nothing we can do.”
Despite the mounting challenges they face, Nasir explained that he and his colleagues continue to do all they can to support people in Gaza in need of medical care.
“Only 25% of our staff are able to get to work. Some cannot work because they had to evacuate their homes. For others it is too unsafe for them to leave their house. For those who are now in shelters, they are able to keep helping those they are now living with.
“Our ambulance teams are helping to evacuate people who are injured to the nearest hospital and also to transport our mobile medical teams to the shelters and to people’s homes. We will also be starting to distribute dignity kits in the shelters and first aid materials to people in their houses so they can take care of their injuries.
“We have health centres but during emergencies such as now, some are closed. We can only keep doing emergency basic health services such as check-ups with pregnant women – especially those who are high risk in the shelters and visiting injured people who need dressings in their wounds every 1-2 days. Sometimes we visit the injured in their houses, sometimes we do the dressings in the shelter and other times in our centres if people can access them.”
However Nasir warned that without the imminent arrival of aid into Gaza, the strip will soon face a humanitarian catastrophe.
“We need medicines, food and fuel to enter Gaza otherwise it will be a disaster. I hope it will be in the next few hours because in Gaza we have some fuel but it will not be enough. Maybe it will be enough for the hospital but not for the primary healthcare centres, maybe it will be enough for the ambulances but not for other cars.
“I hope that the bombing will stop soon. I can’t see how life can return to Gaza as before because so many houses have been demolished. We aren’t speaking of just demolished houses, we are speaking of demolished neighbourhoods.
Nasir is clear on the need for peace.
“Palestinians are seeking their freedom and their dignity. They would like to live in peace like other communities. Please put more pressure on your government to support Palestinian rights and Palestinian independence, and to get Israel to stop this killing now, to stop this massacre now.”
Our local partner’s Christian Aid funded children’s centres and community spaces in Gaza have been opened up for people fleeing for their lives. Staff have taken it upon themselves to coordinate food, blankets and medical supplies for people who, even with all the wars they have been through, never believed that they would become displaced. And also for those who find themselves displaced once again.
Christian Aid’s established partners in Gaza are ready to respond with medical relief and community-led initiatives such as food, shelter, sanitation and cash to support the now homeless. We are actively exploring ways in which we might also support Israeli civilians who've been directly affected by the violence.