More than a year after the war, people in Gaza continue to suffer from poverty, poor access to health care and psychological distress.
The Caritas mobile clinic is composed of Dr. Jebril Barood and his team of a nurse, a psychologist, a laboratory technician and a driver. They visit six different areas every week in central and southern Gaza that lack basic medical services.
“The war will have long-lasting consequences on the people. Diabetes, asthma and other chronic diseases are more frequent in children here than elsewhere. The psychological traumatism of war is probably related of them”, said Dr. Barood.
“Some children show aggressive behavior, others always play by themselves, wet their bed or suffer from anxiety.”
Consultations, lab tests and medication are provided to patients in exchange of a small fee. Usually, people are already queuing when the team arrives.
While Dr. Barood and his colleagues see patients, other Caritas teams provide food packages and hygiene products.
“Our actions are complementary, because a lot of the illnesses we encounter are caused by poverty and poor hygiene conditions. We see a lot of children with diarrhea, malnutrition, skin problems and anemia,” he said.
Out of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, 80% were under the poverty line in 2007. The situation significantly worsened after hostilities broke out between Gaza and Israel in December 2008 and January 2009. Access to safe drinking water is a major problem.
“Power blackouts are frequent. Poor families can’t afford a generator though, so they can’t pump clean water during blackouts,” said Dr. Barood.
Due to the siege, parts of the infrastructure could not be rebuilt.
“During the war, my family and I stayed at the Caritas centre for 10 days because we did not feel safe in our house. I remember how the furniture was trembling with the bombings, just like in an earthquake. It was very frightening each time, you don’t get used to that,” said Dr. Barood.
The mobile clinic has operated in Gaza for the last six years. During last year’s war, it couldn’t go to the villages. The roads were blocked. Instead, the team provided care for refugees coming in from the North to Gaza city. People in the villages were glad to welcome Dr. Barood and his colleagues back after the war. Some have lost hope though.
“Most of my patients are scared of the future. People here believe that there will be more fighting. In their homes, they stock as much food and medication as they can, mainly flour, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication and sedatives. They want to be prepared when there will be further bombings and they can’t leave the house,” said Dr. Barood.
“For us at the clinic, that means we have to give out medication very carefully, assessing people’s real needs each time.”