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The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens as fighting expands

Doctors are working in hospitals lacking water, electricity, and essential supplies, all while the cold winter weather sets in.
The humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens as fighting expands
Posted at 3:14 PM, Dec 03, 2023

The United States has made it clear that humanitarian aid should continue in Gaza despite the end of the cease-fire. But what is the reality on the ground?

In a conversation with Scripps News, Doctors Without Borders shed light on the obstacles they encounter while striving to provide essential assistance to the people of Gaza.

“All of this is a death sentence. It's a way of killing an entire population in one thousand and one ways,” said Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric and ICU doctor from Doctors Without Borders.

Dr. Haj-Hassan has seen horrible suffering in her time traveling the world with Doctors without Borders, but she says the current crisis in Gaza is by far the worst humanitarian disaster in her lifetime.

“All of it is catastrophic. But to know that people have survived, are living in pain, and hope that the medical profession can save them, and knowing that my colleagues, who are some of the most dedicated medical professionals I have met in my career, cannot relieve that suffering, cannot treat otherwise treatable injuries, it's heartbreaking and beyond comprehension,” said Dr. Haj-Hassan.

Doctors are working in hospitals lacking water, electricity, and essential supplies, all while the cold winter weather sets in.

“People are living on one meal a day. They queued for hours for a tin of sardines. We're starting to see starvation and signs of malnutrition,” said Dr. Haj-Hassan. “We've heard reports of patients, one patient saying, 'Please leave me; don't don't care for me; care for the person next to me. I have lost my entire family today and have nothing to live for.'”

Gazans say there is nowhere to go.

"Because of the ongoing bombing, I could suffer miscarriage at any given moment. While I'm in the street, at home, at the hospital, or at the school, I mean, there is no safety, neither in the hospital, at home, nor the school. Nowhere is safe,” Nussaiba Darghoun, a 19-year-old pregnant woman, told the Associated Press.

SEE MORE: Israeli military says it has expanded operations to every part of Gaza

"The whole people want the war to stop so that we can return to our homes to see what happened in our homes and to our families,” Samir Yaghi, who was displaced from Gaza City, told the AP.

Dr. Haj-Hassan says infections are spreading without sanitation or clean drinking water. She says Gazans have been forced to drink salt water or contaminated water to survive.

But, she says, one of the harshest realities is the public health risk Gazans face in trying to bury their relatives.

“They're unable to access their dead relatives, their dead children, to bury them because movement is so controlled and restricted,” said Dr. Haj-Hassan. “Decomposing dead bodies in the open like that are a public health disaster as well as just a very disturbing and extremely tragic thing.”

And, as these health emergencies worsen, the steady flow of supplies and aid has all but stopped with the end of the cease-fire.

In the coming days, three U.S. military planes carrying medical items, food aid, and winter items for the civilian population in Gaza are expected to land in Egypt, but it's unclear how the supplies will safely get to Gazans in need.

“It is a drop in the ocean. You know, you're talking about over two million people who have lost everything,” said Dr. Haj-Hassan.

The United Nations has warned that the aid being delivered only fulfills a fraction of the need. The United States has said it supports a continuous flow of aid to Gaza, but Dr. Haj-Hassan says that can only succeed if fighting stops.

“It's impossible to be able to mobilize the aid to all the places that are needed when there's ongoing shelling. So, the first thing that is needed before we even talk about humanitarian aid is a ceasefire,” said Dr. Haj-Hassan.

She says she hopes the world won't turn a blind eye to what's happening because each day without humanitarian help makes it harder for gazan families to find hope.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry reports that the total death toll in Gaza has exceeded 15,200 people since Oct. 7, marking a significant increase from the previous count of over 13,000 on Nov. 20. According to the ministry, 70% of the deceased were women and children, and over 40,000 individuals have been wounded since the beginning of the war.


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