Gaza suffering a “superbug” epidemic

A hospital in Gaza, where the health system has been worn down by years of blockade. (photo: Mohammed Saber / EPA)
Doctors say antibiotics shortages stop them following protocols to fight drug-resistant bacteria, which are likely to spread to Israel and the West Bank.

By Madlen Davies and Emma Graham-Harrison | The Guardian | Dec 31, 2018

‘This is a global health security issue because multi-drug-resistant organisms don’t know any boundaries. That’s why the global community, even if it’s not interested in the politics of Gaza, should be interested in this.’
— Dina Nasser, lead infection control nurse at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem

Doctors in Gaza and the West Bank have said they are battling an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, a growing problem in the world’s conflict zones, which could also spill over the Palestinian borders.

The rise and spread of such virulent infections adds to the devastation of war, increasing medical costs, blocking hospital beds because patients need care for longer, and often leaving people whose injuries might once have been healed with life-changing disabilities.

Gaza is a particularly fertile breeding ground for superbugs because its health system has been worn down by years of blockade, and antibiotics are in short supply, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found.

Even though doctors in Gaza knew protocols to prevent the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, persistent shortages of antibiotics meant they could not always follow them, they told reporters. Patients take incomplete courses of antibiotics or are prescribed a mix because the right medicine is not available.

Shortages of water, power and fuel for generators mean doctors cannot always meet even basic hygiene standards, making it easier for any drug-resistant infection to spread. At times doctors are not even able to wash their hands and there are shortages of gloves, gowns and chlorine tablets for disinfecting.

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