by Mohammed Omer
IPS — GAZA CITY, Oct 13, 2010 – Samir Tahseen Al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do.
The health ministry now lists 375 deaths due to shortage of life-saving medicines. The medicines sit just outside the borders of the territory until most pass their expiry dates. But there are no expiry dates on about 10,000 coffins that have been donated for Gaza. The coffins do make it to those that eventually need them.
By the end of last month more than 70 percent of medicines donated for Gaza had been dumped because they were past their expiry date, the health ministry says. They were worth many millions of dollars. And they were worth many lives.
“Much of the donated medicines came from Arab states,” Dr Mounir Al- Boursh, director of the pharmaceutical department at the health ministry tells IPS. This added up to 10,300 tonnes of medicines worth 25 million dollars, he said.
Only about 30 percent of this could be used, he said; the rest either expired, or was inaccessible because of restricted distribution by the Israelis, who control what gets into Gaza.
It’s not easy to dump medicines safely either. Much of unused supply mixes with domestic waste, creating health hazards far from bringing relief. The World Health Organisation has had to “raise concern about the unsafe disposal of expired medication and other medical disposable material,” WHO spokesperson told IPS.
But the Gaza ministry has received 10,000 coffins, about 1,000 of them for children, Dr Boursh said. Such help, he said, “does not meet with the needs of the Gaza Strip.”