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GAZA CITY — Drugs have become something of a rarity in the besieged Gaza Strip and medical equipment are standing idle with many patients of chronic diseases like renal failure resigning themselves to death due to the crippling international siege of the Hamas-controlled territory.
"Every time I go to hospital to get drugs I get the same answer 'Sorry, we don't have your medication'," Ahmad, a renal failure patient, told IslamOnline.net Saturday, August 4.
Ahmad, who only gave his first name, is one of thousands of Gaza patients, who have taken the brunt of the international economic blockade and are in a dire need of their usual medications.
Officials at the Health Ministry of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, who was sacked by President Mahmoud Abbas in June after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, said that some hospitals have already ran out of drugs and medical centers are hit by a serious shortage of medication.
They said hospitals urgently need 150 tons of medicines, chiefly anesthetics.
Al-Shafia hospital, the largest in the impoverished territory, currently deals with emergency cases only.
The hospital's key equipment like CAT scanners and kidney dialysis machines are out of service because they have not been maintained for months.
Dr. Muaya Hassanein, the Health Ministry's director of Accident and Emergency Department, said dozens of cancer and kidney patients were slowly dying because of the boycott.
The United States and the European Union imposed a crippling economic siege on the Palestinians after Hamas came to power through democratic parliamentary elections in January of last year.
But following Hamas control of Gaza Strip last June in the wake of bloody clashes with Abbas's Fatah movement, Washington and the euro bloc sharpened their siege on the Gaza Strip and resumed aid to the West Bank to boost the West Bank government of Salam Fayyad.
Adding insult to injury, the Rafah crossing, the Strip's only gate to the outside world, remains closed by Israel with many Palestinians patients being unable to enter Egypt for treatment.
Health Ministry's spokesman Dr Khaled Radi warns of a disaster if the siege persisted.
"The ministry's medicine reserve can last only for three months from now," he told IOL.
He urged the parties concerned not to politicize the deteriorating health sector in the Gaza Strip.
"We appealed to private companies to provide us with drug supplies," he said.
Desperate Gaza patients sent moving petitions to President Abbas and international organizations to step in and save their lives.
Israeli mass circulation Maariv daily has reported that Abbas joined forces with the Americans in thwarting a Qatari-sponsored UN Security Council resolution that would have declared the Gaza Strip a disaster zone in a bid to lift off the economic blockade imposed by the West.
The UN warned last month that the strip's economy would collapse if its crossings continued to be closed by Israel and intentional siege remained in place.
Most of the 1.5 million people in the strip are now dependent on aid.
Up to 825,000 receive aid from UNRWA while an additional 250,000 people are being fed by the World Food Program.
The UNRWA appealed to new Quartet envoy Tony Blair to visit Gaza to see for himself the deteriorating economic situation in the area.