Coronavirus: Physician warns of ‘incoming catastrophe’ in Gaza

Montreal, Canada – For years, Dr Tarek Loubani has been guided by a easy precept: all sufferers, irrespective of the place they stay, ought to have equal entry to high-quality healthcare. However it’s apparent to the Palestinian-Canadian emergency room physician that this ultimate will not be but a actuality.

“I practised in Canada and I practised in Gaza, and I might see that my sufferers in Gaza weren’t receiving the identical care,” he instructed Al Jazeera this week, because the blockaded Palestinian territory confirmed its first two instances of the novel coronavirus.


The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has thrust stark international disparities in entry to healthcare and medical tools into the highlight, as some international locations are being ravaged whereas others are succeeding thus far in staving off a disaster.

The Gaza Strip, some of the densely populated locations on the earth, is anticipated to be among the many hardest-hit areas, as consultants worry continual shortages and an already strained healthcare system will exacerbate the unfold of the virus.

Medical employees in Gaza are making ready for the worst, mentioned Loubani, who spent two weeks working there final month. “Individuals had been so terrified as a result of they knew that they had been dwelling in a powder keg,” he mentioned. “And even these two instances symbolize such an incoming catastrophe.”

3D printing provides

An emergency room doctor within the Canadian province of Ontario, Loubani has labored with colleagues in Gaza to handle a number of the issues plaguing the healthcare system for a number of years.

In 2015, he raised over $206,000 ($300,000 Canadian) to erect photo voltaic panels atop a handful of hospitals throughout the Palestinian territory and supply a extra constant provide of electrical energy amid frequent energy cuts. He additionally based the Glia Venture, an open-source charity that produces 3D-printed medical tools at a low price. The group has helped deploy 3D-printed stethoscopes and tourniquets in Gaza.

Gaza coronavirus

Dr Tarek Loubani, a Palestinian-Canadian physician, poses for an image with a 3D printed stethoscope round his neck, in Gaza Metropolis [File: Khalil Hamra/AP Photo] 

For COVID-19, Glia has shared manufacturing plans for medical face shields, which front-line medical employees use when they’re treating sufferers.

The face shields, that are being produced to be used in Canadian services amid issues that provides might run out, are made with mylar and elastic, and so they price seven {dollars} per unit to provide. They’re additionally reusable, Loubani mentioned.

He mentioned the tools would assist plug a niche in Canada, which is in any other case well-equipped to answer the coronavirus outbreak and the place the federal government has mobilised numerous industries to fabricate provides. However Loubani conceded that face masks alone wouldn’t drastically change the fact of COVID-19 in Gaza.

“Face shields in Canada are nice as a result of that is the factor that is lacking. However in Gaza, it isn’t the factor that is lacking. It is like a bridge, however there is no ends on both facet of this bridge.”

Printers printing face shields in London, Ontario

— Tarek Loubani (@trklou) March 22, 2020

‘Nightmare situation’

Below an Israeli-Egyptian blockade for over a decade, the Gaza Strip faces a dire humanitarian disaster and its medical services are stretched skinny. Many Palestinians within the territory should not have common entry to electrical energy, clear water or sanitation, a actuality that would exacerbate the outbreak.

Critical issues have additionally been raised that Gaza doesn’t have sufficient coronavirus testing kits to satisfy the wants of the native inhabitants, which numbers practically two million folks.

“The hospitals usually are not but actually prepared,” mentioned Matthias Schmale, director of Gaza operations for the UN Palestinian refugee company (UNRWA) on March 20, simply days earlier than the primary coronavirus instances had been reported.

Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem additionally mentioned on March 23 that the unfold of the coronavirus in Gaza could be “a large catastrophe ensuing fully” from the situations created fully by the Israeli blockade.

Gaza coronavirus

A Palestinian man, carrying a masks as a safety measure towards the coronavirus illness, seems on as he works at a bakery in Gaza Metropolis [Mohammed Salem/Reuters] 

“A failing healthcare system, excessive poverty, dependence on humanitarian help, dysfunctional infrastructure and harsh dwelling situations that compromise public well being … mix with overcrowding to type a nightmare situation,” the group mentioned in an announcement.

Loubani mentioned that in February, when he was final in Gaza, physicians didn’t have sufficient gloves, face shields, or M95 protecting masks, and lots of hospitals didn’t have respirators. That tools is essential to combatting the virus, which makes it troublesome for sufferers to breathe and infrequently requires their intubation.

“Probably the most irritating half in regards to the well being system in Gaza is [that] we truly know the reply, and the reply is a direct finish to the blockade, even when for a brief interval in order that we will get by means of this disaster,” Loubani mentioned.

“There’s some quantity of the coronavirus that is inevitable in Gaza, however the catastrophe we’re about to look at unfold will not be inevitable.” 

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