The Israeli authorities continue to severely restrict the entry of goods and humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip under the government’s comprehensive closure policy, despite the visible deterioration of Gaza’s health determinants. Alarmingly, the Israeli authorities have imposed a ban on diagnostic medical devices commonly used for patients testing positive for COVID-19. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) warns that Israel’s restrictions are undermining the population’s right to the highest attainable standard of health and calls on the international community for an urgent intervention.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring, for the past ten months, the Israeli authorities have banned the entry of fourteen medical imaging devices (eight portable devices and six stationary ones) into the Gaza Strip via the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing. The devices are a donation from the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR) and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF).
There are 22 medical imaging devices throughout the Gaza Strip’s public hospitals and facilities. The devices have grown increasingly important since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Gaza, notably for diagnosis in comprehensive care units, inpatient departments, and respiratory screening clinics. Due to overuse and in light of Israel’s restrictions on the import of spare parts, eight devices have become inoperable, which leaves the health sector with a deficit in imaging services.
Israel persists in its unlawful closure—which is a retaliatory policy resulting in 14 years of unlawful collective punishment according to international law. This, along with the ongoing pandemic, diminishing capacities of the health sector, and Israel’s obstruction of vaccine delivery to Gaza, is further compounding the humanitarian suffering of more than two million people in the Gaza Strip. In August 2021, 38% of essential drugs and 22% of medical disposables were at ‘zero stock’. Now, for instance, around a thousand patients diagnosed with blood diseases and kidney failure are faced with a compounded threat to their lives after Erythropoietin ran out.
Al Mezan strongly condemns Israel’s ban on the entry of medical devices, in particular those used for diagnosis, into the Gaza Strip. The international community must urgently intervene to ensure Israel’s respect of its legal obligations vis-à-vis the occupied Palestinian people and end the closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which not only undermines Palestinians’ enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms but also largely causes the determinants of health to deteriorate.
To this end, Al Mezan also calls for the free, unhindered movement of medical equipment and consignments into the Gaza Strip, while fostering support to its healthcare sector.