Gaza’s Hospitals are Empty, and Patients Die in Silence – Tareq S. Hajjaj 6/21/24


This genocidal war brings with it the systematic destruction of all of Gaza’s health system. This has created a new category of people who die from preventable illnesses due to a systematic lack of access to medical care.

Nabil Kuhail, 3 years old, sat on a bed inside the European Hospital in Khan Younis. His grandmother, who took care of him after he lost 24 family members, sat beside him. She attempted to narrate the story of her grandson’s slow death before her eyes, crying more than she spoke. A local reporter recorded her appeal to rescue her grandson, who fell ill due to the new conditions of displacement and pollution in their shelters and tents.

Nabil’s grandmother, Fatima Kuhail, said that at the beginning of the war, the family had been able to protect their only child, managing to meet his needs until the signs of continuous displacement and living in tents started to take their toll on him. A rash, loss of appetite, sleeping for long hours, and lethargy overtook him. The family took the child to a hospital in Rafah before the Israeli invasion of the city. After a long process, the doctors diagnosed him, but could not offer proper medical care.

“The doctors here are doing their best to rescue the boy, but they do not have anything more to offer. This is the extent of their ability,” Fatima said in the video, crying. “The boy must be transferred to a more advanced hospital to receive his treatment, but it’s also hard in the war; doctors are telling me that they put his name on the top priority for treatment abroad.”

Nabil’s diagnosis was leukemia, which resulted in an enlarged liver and spleen. “When we figured it out, we did not believe it. We still do not want to believe that we might lose him,” Fatima continued. “He is filling our lives with joy. We will all be killed if we lose him.”

When the war started, Nabil’s family was displaced from the north of Gaza to the south. When the family first started living in tents, Nabil still didn’t exhibit any symptoms. But later, as he engaged with the environment around him, the symptoms began to show.

“Suddenly, the rash appeared on his body due to the mosquito bites and because of playing in the streets with cats and dogs,” Fatima explained, saying his situation only continued to deteriorate. “Every day, he’s getting worse. In his last blood test, his hemoglobin was 9, and now after 4 days, it’s 6. The boy is dying, and we can’t do anything about it.”

“It’s killing me to see him in pain and to be unable to help him,” she said. “He’s always screaming and saying that his feet are on fire.”

Shortly after the interview with Fatima spread on social media, Nabil was eventually able to travel out of Gaza and was transferred to Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Two days after arriving, he died. He was sent back to Gaza for burial.

Nabil’s story is one among many. Countless patients have struggled to get treatment for a variety of illnesses, from the serious to the commonplace, making the latter often as deadly as the former.

No official list exists of people who died in Gaza during the war as a result of their inability to receive medical treatment. Gaza’s collapsing health system has barely been able to keep up with counting those who have been directly killed by Israel.

The result of this deliberate policy of destroying health infrastructure to facilitate social collapse has had the additional effect of creating a new category of people dying from preventable illnesses due to the systematic lack of access to medical care.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza releases a statement every day about the causalities and death toll. Every day, the ministry appeals to the international world community to put an end to the health crisis in Gaza.

The recent report states that over 1,477,748 people in Gaza have been infected with infectious diseases since October 7 as a result of the crowds in the displaced centers and low standards of hygiene. 71,338 of them have been infected with hepatitis.

“Due to the continued closure of the crossing by Israel and the ongoing war, the sole oxygen station in Gaza is at risk of stopping due to the lack of diesel,” the health ministry report said. “Dialysis services in Gaza are at risk of stopping, hospitals and health centers in the Gaza Governorate and the pharmaceutical warehouse are about to stop, and the remaining ambulances will soon no longer be operational.”

“The targeting of health centers and hospitals by Israeli forces has led to the removal of 22 out of 38 government and private hospitals — with only 16 of them remaining partially operational,” the health ministry report continues. “It has also led to the closure of 64 out of 90 health centers in Gaza due to the scale of the destruction.”

The health ministry declared that no hospital in the Gaza Strip is working at full capacity, and many health services such as outpatient services, scheduled operations, oncology, cardiac catheterization, and organ transplantation, have stopped.

This genocidal war brings with it the systematic destruction of all of Gaza’s health institutions. Every city the army invades has its hospitals targeted, ransacked, and destroyed. Many were the site of massacres and were turned into mass graves. The army made sure that all medical equipment and the buildings were destroyed, guaranteeing that Gaza’s hospitals would no longer be operational.

Most recently, when the Israeli army invaded Rafah, the first part of the city to receive an evacuation warning was al-Najjar Hospital in eastern Rafah, and then al-Awdah Medical Center. Later, the Israeli army bombed and shelled the Kuwaiti Hospital in central Rafah.

At this point in the invasion, all hospitals in Rafah have been emptied. They are all out of service.