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Health Professionals Join the International Call to End The
December 15, 2007
A group of Canadian health professionals has taken a strong stand in support of international efforts to end the siege in Gaza by organizations including the International Red Cross, Physicians for Human Rights/Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. They call upon the Canadian government to support action to end the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
As a result of the siege, UNICEF reports that one in ten children is stunted, one in two is anemic and 75% under the age of five suffer from Vitamin A deficiency. There is a critical lack of health supplies and treatment facilities. As a result of extreme water and electrical shortages the sterilization of medical equipment is severely compromised. In November 2007 alone, thirteen patients died after Israeli authorities denied them access to medical care that is unavailable in Gaza.
The group demands that the Canadian government restore funds to Gaza, insist on respect for international law and support the international appeals to lift the siege.
We are Canadian
health professionals who are deeply concerned about the ever worsening
conditions of everyday life in the Gaza Strip brought about by the
Israeli siege. We ask the Canadian government to restore Canadian
funds for projects in Gaza and to demand that Israel lift the siege
which contravenes the Geneva Conventions. This appeal is part of
an international humanitarian campaign initiated by the Gaza Community
Mental Health Programme and issued by its highly respected director,
Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj. For a great many years, the GCMHP has provided
mental health services to Gazas traumatized families and has
persistently advocated for human
withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but Israel continues to block all access
to Gaza, completely controls its water resources, and effectually
prohibits the movement of goods and people including access to emergency
medical care and food.
was democratically elected in early 2006, Canada was the first of
many countries to irresponsibly withdraw funds from the Palestinian
government. According to the UN agencies and the World Bank, the
unemployment rate is now 70% and 1.1 million of the 1.5 million
Palestinians in Gaza depend on UN assistance to survive, with 80%
of Gazans earning only $2/day. Families live on little more than
tea and bread, and the closed borders mean that they are deprived
of lifes necessities like soap and medicine. According to
Physicians for Human Rights/Israel and Checkpoint Watch (Machsom
Watch), even children, pregnant women, and critically ill people
are not allowed through checkpoints to access emergency medical
care. In 2006, Israel destroyed Gazas electrical plant and
continues to limit electricity which is needed for the pumping and
treatment of water.
What does siege mean on the personal level? Gaza is now described as an open air prison. Israel has the fourth largest military in the world, and the population of Gaza is under constant technological surveillance, subject to extrajudicial executions and intentional maiming of children and adults. Dr. El-Sarraj and his colleagues describe the siege, and most tragically the children who grow up under collective punishment: those children were subjected to several traumatic and violent experiences including beating, bone-breaking, injury, tear gas and acts of killing and injury, all of which experiences have left indelible effects on their psyche. Yet, to many, the most excruciating experience was seeing their fathers beaten helpless by Israeli soldiers without resistance. Those young men who are pursuing revenge and killing and are at times seeking even their own death are the selfsame children who cherished so many dreams of a better life but saw them fade away and fall apart the moment they saw their fathers fall helpless and defenseless victims of arrogant force incarnated in the Israeli soldier. No wonder then that the Palestinian child will see his model in that Israeli soldier and that his language will be the language of force and his toys and games will be the toys and games of death.
Gaza is one of a number of humanitarian disasters in the world that is caused by humans but that can be remedied by reparation. It is essential to acknowledge Canadas shameful complicity in this needless disaster. As health professionals, we demand that our government restore funds to Gaza, lend humanitarian assistance to repair the extensive damage, and insist that Israel respect international humanitarian law and the appeals of innumerable international civil society groups and lift the siege.
Deutsch or Dr. Miriam Garfinkle or Reem Abdul-Qadir