Gaza is in the midst of a terrible humanitarian disaster, this much is clear. Without food, medicines, electricity, fuel, clean drinking water, or heating, the Gazan population is the victim of Israeli collective punishment. The suffering, the assault on human dignity, the stress and fear of a defenceless civilian population are immeasurable.
Israel’s sudden decision to intensify its policy of collective punishment is having disastrous consequences for the health sector in the Gaza Strip. The trickle of humanitarian aid and the limited supplies of fuel that Israel was allowing into the Strip have now been completely stopped. Hospitals are all running on emergency generators and severely depleted fuel reserves. Within days there will be no power for heart monitors for intensive care patients, dialysis machines for kidney patients, lighting for operation theatres, ultrasound machines to monitor the health of pregnant women and their babies, or simply to provide heating for patients in their hospital beds.
Doctors will be forced to make impossible choices: having to choose between the lives of their patients; denying treatment for lack of resources; prematurely discharging patients in need of care.
Patients – particularly cancer patients – in need of life-saving treatment unavailable in Gaza are dying because Israel prevents them from leaving the Strip. 73 have died since June 2007.
Yet the distressing urgency of the current crisis should not prevent us from seeing the bigger picture. The Gaza Strip has been under siege since January 2006. Israel’s policy of collective punishment is not new, but it has now reached such extreme levels of inhumanity that it has finally provoked a reaction from the world.
What is less clear is why this man-made, politically driven crisis has been allowed to happen. The catastrophe now unfolding was predictable and predicted. Local organisations and international agencies have documented and reported on each and every of the incremental steps taken by Israel against Gaza, yet much of the international community has done little more than stand by and watch Israel consistently violate international law.
International law provides all the tools to prevent this crisis, to reverse it, and to hold to account those responsible. It guarantees the rights of all peoples to life, health and dignity and ensures special protection to peoples living under occupation. Specifically, Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “no protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed,” while Article 5B stipulates that all persons must be “provided with food and drinking water and be afforded safeguards as regards health and hygiene and protection against the rigours of the climate and the dangers of the armed conflict.”
Palestinians need the moral solidarity of the international community, but more importantly, they need action. The recent global mobilisation for Gaza is welcome, but regional organisations and individual states will fall short of enforcing a definitive solution without concerted public pressure. Concerned citizens must now capitalise on the momentum generated by the sheer horror of these last days to push for a complete end to the siege of Gaza.
We urgently beseech friends of the Palestinian people around the world, and all those who believe in the sanctity of universal rights and international law to act decisively now.
A situation that would be unthinkable for citizens in other parts of the world cannot be tolerated for the Palestinian people.
Background: PMRS’ Work in the Gaza Strip
PMRS is one of the largest non-governmental health service providers in Palestine, reaching 1.4 million Palestinians in over 490 cities, towns and villages in 2007. This was achieved through the extensive physical and human network built in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 29 years since PMRS was established.
In Gaza, PMRS maintains four primary healthcare centres, two ambulances and two mobile clinics as well as an effective program to help people with disabilities, especially children. PMRS also runs an Individual Relief program for patients in need and a centre providing physiotherapy and assistive equipment to the disabled.
Since 2006, PMRS has intensified its emergency activities in the Strip in response to the overwhelming need for primary and emergency healthcare services. PMRS has now declared a status of emergency and is stepping up its emergency program to support the needs of the people of Gaza.
How You Can Help
PMRS believes that its work on the ground must go hand in hand with advocacy efforts at the international level. The priority in Gaza now more than ever is twofold: helping the people of Gaza survive the siege and bringing it to an immediate end.
You can contribute to these goals by donating money to PMRS’ emergency actions in Gaza, and by acting individually or collectively to put pressure on Israel.
Donate to PMRS
Over the coming 12 months, PMRS will extend the opening hours of its clinics, and expand the operation of its mobile clinics and ambulances, provide medicine – particularly drugs for chronic diseases such as cancer, and mental health medications – work to secure exit permits for patients in need of life-saving treatment unavailable in the Gaza Strip and provide food and emergency household equipment to families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged as a result of the conflict.
All funds raised will go towards this goal.
For example, your donations will help purchase:
1. Powder milk for babies, critical in the absence of fresh dairy supplies and the inability to refrigerate milk. PMRS is seeking to provide 1,000 nursing mothers with two cans of powder baby milk per month.
2. Essential medications for chronic patients. Crippling levels of poverty have meant that purchase of medicines for people suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer, and mental health illnesses is now beyond the ability of most families. PMRS is seeking to provide these drugs to Gazans.
Please see below for practical information on making a donation to PMRS.
Israel reacts to pressure, even if reluctantly and incompletely. Making your voice heard it not a waste of your time but a valuable action in support of Palestine.
1. Your government will not take a strong position against the siege on Gaza if you do not demand it. Write or call your Head of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and local representatives to make your voice heard.
2. Make sure to also write to the Israeli embassy in your country. Israel closely monitors public opinion about its policies. Expressing what you think about them will not go unnoticed.
3. Contact your local media (write letters to newspapers, call radio stations) to request more, and more accurate coverage of Palestine. Even unpublished letters have an impact.
Solidarity groups all around the world work tirelessly for a just peace between Israel and Palestine. They organise campaigns, and ending the siege on Gaza is currently at the top of their agenda. Consider supporting an existing campaign or even founding your own to involve greater numbers of people.
Donations can be made to the following account:
Account Holder: Palestinian Medical Relief Society
Name of Bank: Arab Bank
Account Number: 49-857-9090-667667
Branch: Ramallah # 49-857
Address: Ramallah, West Bank
Alternatively, cheques can be sent to:
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)
P. O. Box 572
Those in the USA wishing to make a tax free donation can send cheques to:
Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel
Friends of PMRS Inc.
P.O. Box 450554
Should you require any further information, please visit www.pmrs.ps or contact the PMRS External Relations Department at 00972 2 296 99 70 ext. 226 or 227.