Palestinian child Mohammed Salim Al-Sayis, 5, from Az-Zaytoun neighborhood in eastern Gaza City died on Saturday, 29 July 2017, at around 2 am. He was diagnosed with Ekiri syndrome, which caused lethal toxic encephalopathy. He died as a result, according to the diagnosis in his medical report.
While at the Gaza City beach, Mohammed and his siblings swam in areas close to Ash-Shaikh Ejleen on 19 July 2017. The next day, they showed symptoms of illness and were rushed to the hospital.
“Because of the electricity blackouts and heat, I decided to take my children to the beach”, said Salim Al-Sayis, Mohammed’s father, in a statement to Al Mezan’s field worker. “My brothers and some relatives joined us on the beach on Wednesday, 19 July 2017. Our children swam in the sea and played on the beach. After we returned home, some of my family members started feeling very sick—at around 2:00 am. Mohammed spent the night either vomiting or sleeping. When I tried to wake him up at 8 am on Friday, 21 July 2017, he did not respond. I immediately took him to Al Dorra Pediatrics Hospital in eastern Gaza City, and siblings and relatives who felt unusual fatigue came along with us. When we arrived at the hospital, Mohammed fell into a coma, while the doctors were taking a CT scan. Then, his health deteriorated drastically and he was placed in the intensive care unit. On Sunday, 23 July 2017, he was transferred to Al Rantisi Pediatrics Hospital in Gaza City, where he received another CT scan. Doctors confirmed that he was suffering from Ekiri syndrome, which results in brain edema. They produced a diagnostic report and tried to request an urgent referral for Mohammed to a hospital outside Gaza. I went to the Department for Treatment Abroad in Gaza City to request financial coverage for my son’s hospitalization. I provided all of the required documents, including the diagnostic report and the doctors’ recommendation for referral. I was asked to wait for an hour for the decision to be made by the responsible staff at the Ministry of Health in Ramallah. However, no matter how many times I asked, I was constantly told that no decision had been made or communicated. For a whole week, I kept trying to secure the referral to cover Mohammed’s medical treatment outside Gaza, and I sought the help of different figures to speed up the decision at the Ministry of Health in Ramallah to approve our request. Nevertheless, no approval was granted.”
Mohammed was then re-admitted to the intensive care unit at Al Dorra Pediatrics Hospital. His condition continued to deteriorate until he died at 2 am on 29 July 2017.
Al Mezan deeply regrets the death of 5-year-old Mohammed Al-Rayis—a death that evidences the constant struggle of the population in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan reminds local and international actors that a breadth of issues make up the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and include the desperate lack of electricity since April 2017 and severe levels of water pollution. These conditions leave Palestinians in Gaza deprived of access to basic rights to the extent that the dignity of the population is impacted. Immediate solutions to these problems must be implemented in order to avoid similar deaths.
Al Mezan calls on the Palestinian Minister of Health to investigate the delay in the urgent medical referral of Mohammed Al-Rayis for life-saving treatment outside of Gaza.
Both Palestinian and international actors must overcome political divisions and take serious and immediate steps to seek an end to this crisis, which impacts, in particular, patients in need of medical access.
Within the context of the intra-Palestinian political divide, Al Mezan warns against the use of the population’s basic rights and services as tools to further political agendas.
Al Mezan also urges the international community to assert the human rights of the Palestinian population, and to respond to the pressing needs of the health sector in the Gaza Strip, including by seeking an end to the electricity crisis and reminding all actors that finding solutions to these problems is more efficient and effective than managing their catastrophic consequences.