Gaza Gets Medical Aid From Kuwait as Hospitals Buckle Under COVID Caseload

The besieged Palestinian territory, suffering from poverty and a crippled medical system, has registered 20,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 100 deaths

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A Palestinian medic checks a person's temperature to screen for coronavirus symptoms, inside a temporary tent at the entrance al-Quds Hospital, Gaza City, September 7, 2020.
A Palestinian medic checks a person's temperature to screen for coronavirus symptoms, inside a temporary tent at the entrance al-Quds Hospital, Gaza City, September 7, 2020.Credit: Khalil Hamra,AP

The World Health Organization delivered 15 ventilators to Gaza hospitals on Sunday amid a spike in COVID-19 infections that has tested the Palestinian territory's under-developed health system.

The donation of the intensive care devices, funded by Kuwait, came a week after local and international public health advisers said hospitals in the enclave could soon become overwhelmed.

"These devices will help medical teams provide better service to patients, but it is not enough," said Abdullatif Alhaj of Gaza's health ministry.

Alhaj said hospitals had suffered acute shortages in oxygen essential in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Gaza has logged nearly 20,000 coronavirus cases and 97 deaths, mostly since August, amid concern of a wider outbreak in the densely populated enclave of 2 million people, many of whom live in poverty.

A Palestinian cleaner sanitizes a renal unit as patients undergo dialysis treatment in a hospital amid the coronavirus crisis, in the southern Gaza Strip, June 9, 2020Credit: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS

The Gaza Health Ministry said 342 COVID-19 patients, of whom 108 are in critical condition, are being treated in the territory's hospitals, which have been able to expand their intensive care units to 150 beds over the past week.

It said more than half of the territory's 150 ventilators are in use.

"The health system right now can hold on for a few weeks after the expansion of beds," said Abdelnaser Soboh, emergency health lead in the World Health Organization's Gaza sub-office.

Soboh said Gaza is also experiencing severe shortages of medications and disposable equipment needed to treat COVID-19 patients.

Palestinian men walk past street art showing doctors mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 12, 2020.Credit: MOHAMMED ABED - AFP

Palestinians in Hamas-run Gaza say 13 years of economic sanctions by Israel and its border blockade have crippled their economy and undermined the development of medical facilities, weakening their ability to tackle a pandemic.

Israel, which cites security concerns for the border restrictions it imposes along with neighbouring Egypt, says it has not limited the transfer of medical supplies to into the Strip to fight the pandemic.

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