The World Health Organization (WHO) says Israel is blocking vital medical supplies from entering the Gaza Strip. The U.N. agency says it is impossible to maintain a well-functioning health system if necessary supplies are not available.
The World Health Organization is renewing its appeal to the Israeli government to allow necessary medical equipment, spare parts, and repair crews to enter the Gaza Strip.
WHO spokesman Paul Garwood says the agency has been waiting for up to a year to be allowed to bring in hundreds of items. He says these include X-ray machines, electronic imaging scanners, laboratory equipment and basic items, such as elevators for hospitals.
"It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective health-care system under conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007," noted Garwood. "It is not enough to simply ensure that supplies such as drugs and consumables are able to enter the Gaza Strip. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained."
Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through its border crossings to avoid an acute humanitarian crisis.
A WHO official in Jerusalem says the agency believes Israel is reluctant to allow certain items, such as batteries and electronic equipment into Gaza because it considers those items could potentially be used for military purposes.
Garwood says Gaza's health-care system also is not functioning as well as it could because Israel is preventing many medical professionals from leaving the Gaza Strip.
He says these people would like to go to other countries to continue their studies and upgrade their professional skills.
"If people are not able to enhance their skills in various medical specialties, therefore they cannot provide the high level of health care and services that the population needs," he added. "Again, if people are not able to enter Gaza to repair equipment, therefore, equipment must be re-bought new. So, the high costs in terms of running a health system are exacerbated by the inability to repair existing equipment. Authorities there must buy new equipment."
The U.N. agency reports mortality rates in Gaza are about 30 percent higher than among the Palestinian population in the West Bank.
The World Health Organization says chronic malnutrition in Gaza has increased during the past few years and is now just over 10 percent.