Two Palestinian patients died in October after their passage through Erez checkpoint was delayed. On 22 October, a 77-year-old patient with a stomach haemorrhage arrived at Erez in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ambulance at 4:00pm. After being delayed for two hours, the patient was denied access. Coordination for passage was approved again on 23 October and the patient arrived at Erez at 10:00am. Aside from the usual 30 minutes needed for coordination at Erez to cross into Israel,2 no additional delay was reported. However, according to the Palestinian Liaison Officer at the checkpoint, at 11am the patient’s body was returned to the Palestinian side, after dying on the Israeli side of the checkpoint.
• On 18 October,a 2 1-year-old male cancer patient reached Erez at 4:00pm. The patient was being transported by an ICU ambulance and escorted by his father.The patient’s entry to the Israeli side of the checkpoint was delayed for 2 ½ hours, after which, the Israeli side requested that the father cross before the patient and indicated that the patient must cross the checkpoint using a walker, rather than be transported by ambulance. After walking to the end of the tunnel that connects the Palestinian side to the Israeli side, the patient was denied passage. His father was arrested on the Israeli side and held for nine days. On 28 October, a second coordination for the patient was approved and the patient was admitted to an Israeli hospital. The patient died the same night at the hospital in Israel.
Israeli Sanctions on Gaza
The Government of Israel began implementing part of a proposed series of economic sanctions on the Gaza Strip on 28 October. The decision to impose electricity sanctions was temporarily halted by the Attorney General pending further legal review. On 28 October, Israel began limiting fuel supplies entering Gaza. A 47% decrease in regular diesel and a 9% decrease in industrial gasoline were reported since the start of the sanctions. Diesel is used by ambulances and service vehicles, while industrial gas is needed for the Gaza Power Plant.Though the fuel sanctions are not heavily felt by Gazans yet, any sustained and prolonged reductions will have severe implications for the lives of the civilian population as power outages ensue. (For more information, see OCHA, Gaza Humanitarian Situation Report, October 2007. For more information on the potential impact of the sanctions on health, see Health Sector section herein.)
Suspension of elective surgical operations at Shifa Hospital due to lack of nitrous oxide gas
According to WHO, elective surgical operations in Shifa hospital were suspended on 21 October as a result of the lack of nitrous oxide gas required to conduct surgical interventions. Shortage of the gas was reported in other Ministry of Health (MoH) hospitals as well. As a result, other anaesthetic drugs were used to perform emergency surgical operations.3 Nitrous oxide gas is supplied to MoH hospitals through the World Bank-funded ESSP project.The delivery of gas from the Israeli medical company-Maxima to the Palestinian MoH in Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing point depends on the prior reception of empty gas cylinders which are sent out of Gaza a month earlier. Due to a communication problem, the filled cylinders were not allowed to re-enter the Gaza Strip. After the urgent intervention of WHO and OCHA with the Israeli authorities, the gas was transported through Kerem Shalom on 22 October and reached the Palestinian delivery focal point and was distributed to MoH hospitals on 23 October.
The deepening livestock crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
FAO reports that Palestinian sheepherders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are facing a major livelihood crisis.The cost of fodder has increased dramatically and continues to rise. A ton of barley today has reached 2,200 NIS (almost double the price in January 2007 and triple that of January 2006). Water prices have also increased, for personal and livestock consumption, reaching up to 100 NIS per cubic meter in isolated areas. A long dry season and overgrazed pastures, due to protracted Israeli land seizure and land use restrictions, further exacerbate the situation. The drastic increase in production costs, mainly due to water and feed prices, is forcing many farmers to resort to distress sales of sheep, even reproductive female sheep, jeopardizing the sustainability of the flock and forsaking the selective breeding they have conducted for generations. (For more details, see Food Security and Agriculture section herein.)
Increasing food prices
The WFP market survey shows a significant increase in the price of essential food commodities, meat, dairy products, fuel and electricity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over the past three months. From August – October, the price of wheat flour increased by 35% (29% in the Gaza Strip and 39% in the West Bank). During the same period, dairy products increased by 6% and fuel by 3%.The market graph below shows a comparison of nominal prices of selected food commodities between August – October 2005 and August – October 2007 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It shows the impact of high international prices coupled with closures. Increased prices are affecting almost all staple commodities, which significantly affects the purchasing power of the population.The steep price increases in cereals are due to the rise in international prices (linked to crop failure and biofuel production). While within the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the internal price fluctuation is linked to the closure regime and related market fragmentation. Increased food prices come as Palestinian households are coping with a drop in income: preliminary findings of a rapid assessment carried out by WFP on non-refugee households’ showed a 22% drop in income amongst non-refugee households in October, compared to pre-June 2007. (For more details, see Food Security and Agriculture section herein).