Gaza doctors set up street tents as hospitals close to breaking point


Doctors in Gaza have told Sky News that the situation is “catastrophic”, and disease is spreading through refugee camps, particularly among children.

So many of the hospitals in Gaza are now either closed or close to breaking point, that doctors have set up treatment tents on streets, with the little supplies they can get their hands on.

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Dr Rajaa Okashah is a paediatrician from northern Gaza, forced by the fighting to leave his home and move south to Rafah.

It’s only a professional dedication to medicine and a sense of duty to his fellow Gazans that keeps him going. His surgery is now a tent – a street clinic in a refugee camp.

“I decided to open this medical tent to provide them with medicines and treatment for free, especially as the health system in Gaza now lacks hospitals, lacks health centres,” Dr Okashah told Sky News.

“The situation in the camp is nearly catastrophic. Food is not clean, people drink salty water because there is no fresh water, and viruses and bacteria are alarmingly widespread among children because of their weak immunity.

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“There are epidemics such as hepatitis A. The situation is so bad here in this camp.”

More than 20,000 babies have been born in Gaza since the war started.

Doctors in Gaza have told Sky News that the situation is "catastrophic". Doctor Dr Rajaa Okashah
Paediatrician Dr Rajaa Okashah’s surgery is a tent – a street clinic in a refugee camp

Dr Okashah said: “The most difficult conditions I treat are respiratory problems. Oxygen is important for the children. Respiratory problems are widespread among children, especially newborn babies, three months old, and less than one month old.

“We receive babies who are unable to breathe. Such conditions need to be admitted to hospital [but] sadly hospitals here are full.

“In the only paediatric hospital in Gaza, there are three to four children per bed. Now children sleep on the floor, so the most difficult conditions are respiratory problems, and chest infections among babies less than three months old.

Doctors in Gaza have told Sky News that the situation is "catastrophic"
People queue outside the treatment tent

Medicine has to be rationed for the patients who need it most. Hospital is only an option for the most urgent cases. There has been a dramatic increase in post-natal depression among new mothers.

Dr Muhammad al Raqeb, a young gynaecologist from Khan Yunis, sees between 50 and 70 expectant mothers in his tent every day.

“The cases that I need to transfer like severe bleeding cases, or the cases when their lives are threatened by cause or by disease. Then I handle the primary care, and I transfer them by ambulance.

“They suffer a lot, you know, their conditions are not suitable for them during pregnancy or after delivery. They need good clean water available all the time. They need clean bathrooms, and these things are not available. That’s why a lot suffer from urinary tract infections, pneumonia and skin diseases.”

Dr Muhammad al Raqeb
Gynaecologist Dr Muhammad al Raqeb

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Dr al Raqeb added: “They come in extreme or bad conditions. In many, many cases, they die because they don’t get proper management during their pregnancies and that’s why they deteriorate. Sometimes they even lose their wombs.

“You know, maybe they are saying Gaza is a place for death, but for me, I know that Gaza is a place for life. Gaza will never lose hope. And, the [medical[ tent is just one place to spread hope and just spread the smile to spread health.”

The makeshift hospital
Dr al Raqeb says ‘Gaza will never lose hope’

Without the dedication of doctors in Gaza, the death toll would be, without doubt, so much higher. They’re fighting their own war: a war for medicine, clean water, and space to work safely. The line between life and death in Gaza is desperately thin.

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