Leading medics have called for states to forget the politics of Gaza and focus on the “epidemic” of antibiotic-resistant superbugs now threatening the Palestinian territory.
International doctors working in Gaza and the West Bank say shortages of antibiotics, clean water, power and fuel for generators have left them unable to follow even the most basic medical protocols.
An in-depth analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, released this week, shows how Gaza’s crippled health system has led it to become fertile ground for the virulent infections, which could soon spread over the border into Israel.
“It will always get out,” said Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, an expert in conflict medicine at the Beirut Medical Center. “The untreated sewage from Gaza containing multi-drug resistant bacteria goes into the aquifer” which supplies Egypt and Israel.
Recent studies from Scotland show that multi-drug resistant bacteria can be found in the pellets of migrating birds, and Sittah said “the idea anyone could be immune to this phenomena is absurd”.
Gaza-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mahmoud Mattar said 2,000 Gazans were currently dealing with serious gunshot injuries to the legs that normally need several reconstructive operations and two years’ rehabilitation, but nearly all of them had superbug infections, meaning surgeons have to delay closing the wounds, reducing the chance of successful reconstruction, extending hospital stays by months and increasing the risk of amputation.
“This is a global health security issue because multi-drug-resistant organisms know no boundaries,” said Dina Nasser at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem, who has also worked in Gaza. “That’s why the global community, even if it’s not interested in the politics of Gaza, should be interested in this.”