Premature babies relying on oxygen will die within 72 hours if fuel runs out at their hospital, according to a neonatal doctor in Gaza.
Dr Hatem Edhair, head of the neonatal unit at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in south Gaza, said the hospital had around 48 hours worth of fuel left in stock, which is used to power medical equipment needed by the babies.
Without a fuel delivery, they will die within 24 hours of the fuel running out, Dr Edhair said.
Nasser Hospital has eight babies in intensive care and 10 other babies requiring “special care” across the neonatal unit, according to Dr Edhair.
“Half of these children [nine babies] are on CPAP [continuous positive airway pressure] machines and oxygen machines. If the hospital runs out of fuel, [these nine] babies will die in less than 24 hours. They will not be able to make it without oxygen,” he said.
Dr Edhair, who works with humanitarian group Medical Aid for Palestinians, also spoke of the pressure of working in a conflict zone: “We are working around the clock, leaving our families behind, knowing they can be a target at any moment. Our families also know that we can be a target at any time, but we have to do our job. We need to save these babies.”
Fuel has been running out since Israel blockaded Gaza two weeks ago, barring deliveries of essential goods such as food and water in response to the massacre of hundreds of Israelis by Hamas, the UK-proscribed terror organisation that controls Gaza.
Unicef warned yesterday that 120 babies in incubators – including 70 premature newborns also on ventilators – are dependent on machines linked to backup generators.
Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, will also run out of fuel in the next 48 hours, according to charity ActionAid.
Riham Jafari, advocacy and communications coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said: “Hospitals are relying on fuel-powered generators for their electricity. Fuel and medical supplies should be provided now to Gaza. Children, patients, babies in incubators, pregnant women will lose their lives if fuel is not provided to hospitals in Gaza.”
Lorries carrying aid entered Gaza in two stages over the weekend after days of stalemate at the border as both sides negotiated the conditions of passage.
The weekend’s deliveries, from 20 trucks on Saturday and 14 on Sunday, did not contain fuel, which is believed to be the condition in order for Israel to allow deliveries of other goods to enter the Strip.
Humanitarians suggested this was likely because the country feared fuel could be used by Hamas to continue to attack Israel.
But they warned it was “as essential as food and water” to Gaza as fuel is needed to power generators for pumping water and running hospitals.
Many essentials had already been in short supply prior to the recent escalation of violence due to a long-term blockade by Israel, with the UN saying that Gaza relied on 100 trucks per day of humanitarian aid and Oxfam warning that 80 per cent of Palestinians in Gaza were already reliant on humanitarian aid.
The UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) warned that their stocks of fuel were running out, leaving them struggling to provide water or shelter.
“Without fuel we cannot operate wells or transfer drinking water, or start generators at UNRWA shelters,” said spokesperson Inas Hamdan.
There have also been reports of taxi journeys soaring in price as people attempt to flee, believed to be due to the high cost of fuelling the cars.