Gaza Hospital Suspends Services Due to Diesel Shortage

As patients at the Beit Hanun hospital suffer, Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank blame each other

A man sits outside his store in Gaza during the few hours of electricity daily, July 2017.
Mahmud Hams / AFP

Services at the Beit Hanun hospital in the northern Gaza Strip were suspended Monday morning due to a shortage of diesel fuel for operating generators, Gaza’s health ministry said.

The Strip is suffering from a dire electricity shortage, with daily outages of eight to 12 hours forcing hospitals to rely on diesel-fueled generators. Ashraf al-Qudra, the ministry’s spokesman, said patients at Beit Hanun were being evacuated to other hospitals.

He said the move endangered the lives of thousands of people, while the hospital needed 500 liters (132 gallons) of fuel a day to provide eight to 12 hours of electricity.

The Beit Hanun hospital serves 60,000 people in northern Gaza. It holds 66 patients and provides emergency services, while its outpatient clinics offer another 35 beds. On average, the hospital performs 12 surgeries a day.

The ministry warned that the al-Dura children’s hospital was also on the brink of suspending operations due to fuel shortages.

In the coming days the hospital will start limiting its use of generator-produced electricity, which will hamper administrative and cleaning services. All told, Gaza’s hospitals need 450,000 liters of fuel a day to cover the eight-to-12-hour power shortage, and almost 950,000 liters a day in areas where power cuts can continue for 20 hours. Diesel for one hour costs $2,000.

The regulation of diesel purchases for Gaza’s hospitals is stuck partly due to a freeze in the reconciliation process between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The PA says Hamas is de facto in charge of Gaza. For its part, Hamas says the Palestinian government in Ramallah, including its health minister, is responsible for resolving the crisis.

Last week the Palestinian authorities in Ramallah announced that Health Minister Jawad Awad was allotting 1 million shekels ($290,300) for buying diesel for Gaza’s hospitals, a sum that would only suffice for one week to 10 days. On Monday, the Palestinian Health Ministry did not immediately responded to Haaretz’s questions for comment.

In tandem with the health crisis, 13,000 employees of a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, struck at all the agency’s Gaza offices Monday to protest budget cuts, including those announced by the U.S. administration.

The employees plan to hold a march calling on the international community to keep the funds flowing. UNRWA provides basic services to more than 2 million refugees, including those in Gaza.

The head of the UNRWA employees’ union in Gaza told reporters that the strike and march were a first step and the employees would ramp up their protest if no solution was found, including a march to the border fence with Israel.