Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
July 31, 2006
A statement by over eighty Canadian health professionals, including
a number of prominent medical advocates for human rights and peace,
expresses deep concern over the silence of the Canadian Government
and the Canadian media about the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
The group is calling on the Canadian government and the media to
truthfully recognize and report the humanitarian situation and to
respond with compassion and effective help.
The statement details the immediate humanitarian disaster as well
as the crisis that preceded the capture of Cpl. Shalit and that
even antedated the election of the Hamas government in Palestine.
The Israeli pull-out of settlers in 2005 left Gaza a land in ruin,
with hundreds of hectares of devastated fields, thousands of uprooted
trees and wrecked homes, millions of tons of rubble rendering the
land surface "airtight" and unsuitable for agriculture,
with Israel still in control of the water supply and still blocking
road and sea access to Gaza.
According to medical reports from Gaza and from Physicians for
Human Rights-Israel, the population of Gaza was already physically
and psychologically traumatized.
After the Israeli invasion this July, six U.N. agencies verify
that the destruction of infrastructure has left the population without
adequate food, water, medicine, and fuel, and vulnerable to epidemics.
The statement calls on the Canadian government to immediately restore
aid to the Palestinian government to ensure that water, food, medicine
and the necessities of life are immediately available and accessible
The statement appears below.
Spokespeople for the group:
Federico Allodi, M.D.
Judith Deutsch, M.S.W.
Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.
Statement of Concern for the Public
Health Situation in Gaza
As Canadian health professionals, we are deeply concerned by the
silence of the Canadian government and the Canadian media about
the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. We are calling on the Canadian
government and the media to truthfully recognize the humanitarian
situation and to respond with compassion and effective help.
Even before the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006,
and even before the election of the Hamas government, the humanitarian
situation in Gaza was dire.
* When the settlers left Gaza in August, 2005, the Israeli army
left all of the land they occupied covered in millions of tons of
rubble, rendering it unusable for cultivation. Israel continued
to control all access to Gaza and continued to control water resources.
* After the Hamas government was elected, the Palestinian health
system collapsed due to the freeze of tax revenues by Israel and
the stoppage of international aid (led by Canada). Physicians for
Human Rights-Israel reported at the time that Israel is responsible
for the outcome of the collapse of the Palestinian civil society
in general and the health system in particular. Specific to Gaza,
PHR-I stated that Shifa Hospital, the central hospital in Gaza,
has not received (for at least a month) the essential medicines
it needs for basic care , such as furosemide (a diuretic medicine
that reduces fluid pressure on the lungs and other organs) and erythromycin
(broad-spectrum antibiotic). In Shifa Hospital four patients already
have died as a result of the reduction in the number of their dialysis
treatments from three per week to only two. James Wolfensohn, Special
Envoy for Disengagement to the U.S. Foreign Relations Committee,
stated on March 15, 2006, that the collapse of health services and
the education system, which addresses the needs of one million children,
would be a total failure for the new government, and would have
tragic consequences for the Palestinian people. This should not
be permitted under any circumstances.
* Six months before the capture of Cpl. Shalit, PHR-I filed a petition
and a request to the Israeli Supreme Court for a temporary injunction
to stop the sonic booms, deeming it a collective punishment of the
civilian population that particularly traumatized children. The
petition was rejected and the sonic booms persist. According to
The Guardian Weekly (June 16-22), daily life was violent: 3000 Qassam
rockets were fired into Israel over the past five years from Gaza,
killing five people; on the other side, Israel dropped 6,000 shells
on Gaza since the beginning of April, claiming the lives of elderly
farmers, children, and women as well as the family of Huda Ghalia
on the Gaza beach; no figures were given about Israeli ground assaults
in the same five year period. The June 8th report of MSF-USA, however,
reports that Israeli bombing in north Gaza was particularly intense,
in one incident killing 45 cows which affected the food supply;
MSF continues that bombing since the beginning of the year was so
intense in the north that people could not access health-care facilities.
Extra- judicial executions and kidnappings by the IDF persisted,
and the day before Cpl. Shalit was captured, the IDF kidnapped a
Gazan doctor and his brother.
* Before the current offensive, UN aid relief workers were giving
daily food rations to 735,000 Gazans, more than half the overcrowded
territory's population of 1.4 million people. 79 percent of households
were living under the poverty line and unemployment was 40 percent.(U.N.
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, report July
Since the capture of Cpl. Shalit, the situation is far worse in
Gaza because of the destruction of the water, sanitation, food,
health, and electricity infrastructure. As of July 8, 2006
* World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that the public health
system is facing an unprecedented crisis. WHO estimates that though
hospitals and 50 percent of Primary Health Centres have generators,
the current stock of fuel will last for a maximum of two weeks.
WHO, based on UNRWA's data related to communicable diseases, stated
that the total number of cases of watery and bloody diarrhoea amongst
refugees for the last week in June and the first week in July has
increased by 163 percent and 140 percent compared to the same period
last year (also reported in Defense for Children International-Palestine
section). WHO estimates that 23 percent of the essential drug list
will be out of stock within one month. WHO is also alarmed by the
tightening of restrictions on patients needing to leave Gaza for
* The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that in June 70 percent
of the Gaza population were already unable to cover their daily
food needs without assistance. As of 8 July, WFP has 20 days of
emergency food stocks to cover its expanded caseload of 220,000.
Given the escalating crisis, there are growing numbers of people
who now need assistance. WFP believes it is essential that a humanitarian
corridor for relief items and personnel remains open to avert a
further deterioration in the food security situation at this critical
* UNICEF reports that children are living in an environment of
extraordinary violence, insecurity and fear. Care givers say children
are showing signs of distress and exhaustion, including a 15 percent-20
percent increase in bedwetting, due to shelling and sonic booms.
* The Office of the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
states that since destruction of the electric plant, the lives of
1.4 million people, almost half of them children, worsened overnight.
In the hottest time of the year, most Gaza residents have power
for only 6-8 hours/day. In urban areas, water is available between
2-3 hours/day. The water authority has enough chlorine for two months.
UNRWA reports that the Water Utility's daily operation has been
cut two thirds, resulting in water shortages and a critical situation
at the sewage plants.
* On 19 July the Palestinian Human Rights Centre reports that since
28 June 2006, 115 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in
Gaza, 550 have been wounded, passage of food, fuel and medicine
is denied, six bridges have been destroyed, and transportation and
access to medical clinics is disrupted.
According to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions (1977), the
onus is on the warring state to protect the civilian population
from the impact of military operations. As the occupying power,
the State of Israel is bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention Articles
19 and 50 to treat humanely Gaza's wounded and sick, to protect
hospitals, to protect and care for children. Article 55 states that
the Occupying Power has the duty to ensure the food and medical
supplies of the population. Article 56 states that the Occupying
Power has the duty, in cooperation with the national local authorities,
to ensure and maintain medical and hospital services, public health
and hygiene. The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Physicians
for Human Rights-Israel, demand Israel's immediate compliance with
the Geneva Conventions and restoration of Gaza's infrastructure.
The undersigned Canadian health professionals fear for the lives
of Palestinian people. We ask the Canadian Government to demand
that Israel fulfil its responsibilities as a signatory of the Fourth
Geneva Convention and take immediate and effective measures to provide
protection of the civilian population in Gaza, to reduce severe
risks to public health, and to secure appropriate medical care.
We ask our own government for the immediate restoration of Canadian
aid to the elected Palestinian government to ensure that water,
food, medicine and the necessities of life are immediately available
and accessible in Gaza.
(as of July 31, 2006)
Elia Abi-Jaoude, M.D.
Saadia Ahmad MSW RSW M.Ed
Michael Allen, M.D.
Federico Allodi, M.D.
Zalman Amit, Ph.D.
Maria Applewhite, R.N., M.P.H.
Neil Arya, M.D., Past President Physicians for Global Survival,
Rand Askalan, Ph.D., M.D.
George A. Awad, M.D.
Ahmed Bayoymi, M.D.
Warren Bell, BA MD CM CCFP, Past President, Physicians for Global
Saleha Bismilla, Acting Family Home Visitor supervisor
Gary Bloch, M.D.
Irene Bond, R.N.
Stephen Connell, M.D.
Andrea A. Cortinois, MPH, PH.D. Centre for International Health
University of Toronto
Minella De Souza, MBBS, FRCPC
James Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D.
Judith Deutsch, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Dale Dewar, M.D., CCFP, FCFP
Irfan Dhalla, M.D.
Farzana Doctor, M.S.W.
Paul Duchastel, M.D., Past President of Association des Medecins
de Langue Francaise du Canada
A.F. Elzawi, M.D. cardiologist
Vivien Fellegi, M.D.
Jane Finlay-Young, Registered Health Practitioner
Sarah Freke, M.D.
Maha Gabarin, O.D.
Sharon Gazeley, M.D.
Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.
Qais Ghanem, M.D.
R.F. Gindi, M.D.
Louis Girard, M.D.
Dr. Frank Guttman
Dr. Herta Guttman
Ted Haines, M.D.
Paul Hamel, Ph.D. Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto &
President Science for Peace
Kathy Hardill, RNEC Nurse Practitioner
Fred Harris, M.D.
Sameh Hassan, M.D.
Raed Hawa, M.Sc., M.D.
D.J. Hill, M.D.
Hanna Hinnawi, M.D.
Debbie Honickman, M.D.
Paul Hwang, M.D.
Seema Khan, M.D.
Haresh Kirpalani, M.D., Professor Neonatal Medicine, McMaster University
Tara Kiran, M.D.
Peggy Lathwell, M.D.
Joel Lexchin, M.D.
Mark Leith, M.D.
Abby Lippman, Ph.D.
Christie Maccalum, M.D.
Harriet MacMillan, M.D.
Roy Male, M.D.
Debra Mandel, M.Ed., psychotherapist
Vashti Mascoll, Primary care nurse
Gabor Mate, M.D.
Sylvia Mathew, M.S.W.
Alison Miculan, M.D.
Lois Milne, Optometrist
Basem Naser, M.D.
Nancy Olivieri, M.D.
Mario Ostrowski, M.D.
Reem Abdul Qadir, M.S.W. R.S.W.
Clare Pain, M.D.
Michael Potter, M.A. Medical Ethics
Elizabeth Pringle, M.D.
Jane Pritchard, M.D.
F. Rabie, M.D.
Meb Rashid, M.D., CCFP
Guillaume Rouselet, Ph.D. Neuroscientist
Manuel Rozental, M.D.
Nasri J. Sami, MB, FRCSC consultant neurosurgeon
Mounir Samy, M.D. Assoc. Professor of Psychiatry, McGill
Joanna Santa Barbara, M.D. Past President Physicians for Global
Eshrat Sayani, M.D.
Fred Schloessinger, M.A. psychotherapist
Gihad Shabib, M.D., Ass. Professor Ob/Gyn Ottawa U.
Nayana Somaiah, MBBS, CCFP
Christina Stonehouse, R.N.E.C. Nurse practitioner
Jim Sugiyama, M.D.
Tanya Suvendrini Lena, M.D., MPH
Teresa Tran, M.D.
Wahida Valiante, M.S.W.
Cheryl Wagner, M.D.
Scott Weinstein, R.N.
Judith Weisman, psychotherapist
Gordon Yanchyshyn, M.D.
Tanya Zakrison, M.D. Chief Senior Resident University Health Network
Humanitarian Situation in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon
and Israel (August 16, 2006)
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