Israeli blockade on Gaza means parents are separated from critically ill children
Oliver Holmes in Jerusalem and Hazem Balousha in Gaza
Thu 20 Jun 2019
Hiba Swailam, 24, carrying her five-month-old daughter, Shahad, who is the only surviving triplet. Photograph: Wissam Nassar/The Guardian
At first glance, nothing appeared out of place at the children’s intensive care unit. Nine beds were filled with nine tiny newborn babies, all with tubes attached to their wiry bodies. Monitors emitted the sounds of steady electronic blips. Nurses walked from bedside to bedside. A tired-looking paediatrician filled out paperwork.
Yet something was missing: there were no parents.
Some had been sent home to rest, or might be anxiously drinking coffee in the cafeteria downstairs. But for two babies at this Palestinian hospital in Jerusalem, their mothers were trapped an hour and a half away behind an Israeli-enforced blockade in Gaza. Both infants would later die, one without seeing her mother again.
Critically ill Palestinian infants taken from impoverished and war-battered Gaza to the better equipped Makassed hospital are suffering and dying alone.
Israel allows temporary exit from Gaza for medical reasons in some cases, but not all. At the same time, it prevents or seriously delays many parents of patients from leaving, and others never apply in the first place, fearing that extensive security checks for adults will hold up their child’s exit permit and lose vital time.