US Volunteers Witness Dire Health Crisis in Rafah Hospital

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Representation for Rafah Hospital | Credits: Sky News
Representation for Rafah Hospital | Credits: Sky News

United States: After seven months of fighting in Gaza, sights of misery are described in clinical terms at one of the few operational hospitals left in Rafah. American medical volunteers are attempting to manage the aftermath of Israeli military operations and border closures.

Crisis in Gaza: Volunteers Stranded

Dr. Usman Shah from California and Dr. Ammar Ghanem, who leads the intensive care unit, are discussing a patient injured in an explosion. Despite efforts to suture a hole in the heart, excessive blood loss made it impossible to save the patient. They’re part of a team of American and American-trained doctors in Rafah, brought in by the Palestinian American Medical Association. Unfortunately, they’re now stuck because Israel closed the main border crossing. As the situation worsens, more patients with severe injuries arrive. The closure also means many local doctors and nurses can’t come to work as they’ve had to evacuate their families.

Tough Decisions in Conflict Zones

Doctors and nurses on a mission to help in conflict zones usually have experience, but Dr. Ghanem says this situation is unlike any they’ve faced. He explains that sometimes they have to make tough decisions, like choosing who to treat based on who has the best chance of surviving. In one case, they couldn’t give enough medicine to keep a patient unconscious because they didn’t have enough supplies.

Sadly, they had to stop treatment for an 18-year-old girl with a severe head injury to help other patients who needed oxygen. Dr. Ghanem says it’s a difficult situation that they wouldn’t face in the United States, but they have to do their best with limited resources because of the war.

Representation for current situation in Gaza | Credits: AP Photo

Ghanem estimated that two to three patients each day in the intensive care unit pass away due to a shortage of supplies or equipment. Ghanem did not want the hospital’s identity disclosed for security concerns.

Hospital Shortages Amid Crisis


A portion of the issue stems from Israel’s prohibition of supplies vital to hospitals, citing the possibility of Hamas using them for military objectives. Some materials for water disinfection are among the things on the list that it considers dual-use.

Not all goods that are purportedly prohibited are included on the list. According to Save the Children, Israel has refused some of its shipments because they included sleeping bags with zippers. Fishing rods and tent plastic sheets are among the goods that organizations have claimed have been turned away, according to a list produced by the Israeli legal center Geisha.

The UN and foreign relief organizations claim that the outcome is protracted delays and a deteriorating humanitarian aid crisis.

International aid organizations, including Save the Children and Care, criticize Israel for unfulfilled pledges, citing dire challenges in delivering life-saving aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. Despite denial from Israeli authorities, aid workers warn of infrastructure damage, lack of clean water, and increasing starvation, pushing humanitarian operations to collapse. Evacuation orders in Rafah, where over 1.3 million people reside, leave many with nowhere to go, forcing families to makeshift shelters in graveyards and on the beach. Surgeon Dr. Nick Maynard reports increased complications from malnutrition in trauma cases during medical missions to Gaza, highlighting the urgent need for humanitarian assistance.

Hospitals in the area lack essential medical supplies, including colostomy bags and wound management materials, exacerbating the dire situation. Dr. Maynard reports the tragic deaths of two young patients due to malnutrition-related complications, foreshadowing more such fatalities in the future. Dr. Kahler warns of a critical juncture, with Palestinian children experiencing worsening malnutrition and compromised immune systems, leading to increased susceptibility to infections and complications.

Fuel Crisis Worsens Gaza’s Plight

Aid officials highlight the critical shortage of fuel in Gaza, with the main Rafah border crossing closed, hindering the delivery of essential supplies and services. Jeremy Konyndyk emphasizes the dependence of aid operations on fuel, stressing its role in powering vital infrastructure and distribution networks. In response to concerns, the Israeli military announces the transfer of fuel to international organizations in Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Doctors treating patient at Rafah Hospital | Credits: Getty Images

The French news agency AFP was informed by Andrea De Domenico, the chief of the UN assistance operations, that a certain quantity of fuel was required daily to keep things running.

The Rafah border is the only one that can accommodate a big number of gasoline tankers, so the United States wants it opened right now, according to White House national security spokesperson John Kirby on Friday. Aid organizations are worried because the Rafah border crossing, vital for sending humanitarian aid to Gaza, has been closed.

Fuel is crucial for running hospitals and distributing aid, but Israel has restricted its entry into  Gaza.

Monica Johnston, a nurse, described the dire situation at Rafah hospital, where medicine and supplies are running low. She emphasized the urgent need for a ceasefire to ensure medical care, supplies, and the safe return of aid workers.

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