- Israel’s Siege is Halving Gaza Patients’ Survival Rates, It’s Time to Act
by Maya Abuali, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/
Lacking in 60 per cent of appropriate medicine and treatment protocols as a result of the siege, Gaza’s already deficient cancer care is slipping further into chaos as restrictions grow harsher
Beyond dealing with the Gaza Strip’s already uninhabitable living conditions, Palestinian cancer patients in the enclave are unable to receive proper treatment due to numerous obstacles imposed by the Israeli occupation state. With a population of two million in only approximately 365 square kilometres of land, the Gaza Strip has seen around 1,800 new cancer cases each year, while lacking 60 per cent of the appropriate medicine and treatment protocols. Patients living in Gaza are therefore forced to seek treatment in hospitals in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem or within Israel. However, due to the restrictions placed on their movement by the Israeli occupation, they often fail to do so in time.
Shortages in adequate care
Data provided to Middle East Monitor by the Al-Rantissi Specialised Hospital in Gaza indicates a major absence of sufficient tools to allow for standard and safe multidisciplinary cancer care. This includes a shortage of trained staff, medical equipment and adequate protocol such as screening for colorectal cancer. There is no main cancer services centre in Gaza, and capacity in cancer facilities such as the Al-Rantissi hospital have been exceeded and are projected to continue to do so in the coming years. Due to the restrictions imposed on imports by the occupation’s siege of the enclave, there is a significant lack in new medicine for breast and colon cancer and chemotherapy, as well as no radiation therapy machines at all. There is also a pressing want for cancer specialists and training programmes for cancer doctors and nurses in the region. These shortages have resulted in severe ramifications; for instance, breast cancer patients — which constitute 15 per cent of all cancer patients in Palestine — have a five-year survival rate of 40 per cent in Gaza, compared to other countries, where the rate stands at approximately 90 per cent.
READ: Israel’s occupation is Gaza’s main medical problem, insist professionals
Dr. Zeena Salman, a pediatric oncologist who has treated children with cancer at Al-Rantissi, explained the dire nature of these issues. “The [challenging] thing in Gaza is because all access [to medicine] is controlled through two checkpoints […] there’s frequent shortages in terms of chemotherapy, there’s no access to radiation therapy, there’s [often] no access to different surgical sub-specialists…,” Salman says in an interview with Middle East Monitor. “You have a strict treatment protocol in Gaza — all of our treatment protocols are very strict in terms of dosing, type of medication, the timing […] things have to happen in such a tight period of time and it’s such a complex process that requires so many different disciplines of medicine.”
Dr. Salman is currently working on several projects including building a cancer registry for children across Palestine so that doctors are able to track every single child struggling with cancer to record their outcomes, place of treatment, specific medicinal needs/shortages, and how they can improve their survival rates.