Red Cross says Gaza health crisis of ‘unprecedented magnitude’

Robert Mardini, Regional Director the Near and Middle East ICRC,M speaks during a press conference on the situation in Gaza, at the International Red Cross, ICRC, headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AP)
Updated 01 June 2018

Red Cross says Gaza health crisis of ‘unprecedented magnitude’

  • At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest that flared up at the end of March.
  • More than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition, some multiple times, and there had been nearly 5,400 limb injuries.

GENEVA: The Red Cross warned Thursday that Gaza was facing an "epic" crisis, after weeks of violence has left more than 13,000 Palestinians wounded, overwhelming an already disastrously weak health system.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was stepping up its assistance in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, and was sending in two surgical teams, additional medical specialists and supplies to help face the crisis.
"The recent demonstrations and violent activities along the Gaza border... have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude," Robert Mardini, who heads the ICRC's Near and Middle East operations, told reporters.
At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest that flared up at the end of March. No Israelis have been killed.
More than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition, some multiple times, and there had been nearly 5,400 limb injuries, ICRC said.
Mardini's comments came as calm appeared to return to the Gaza Strip and nearby Israeli communities following the worst military flare-up in the area since a 2014 war, raising fears of yet another full-blown conflict in the narrow strip.
Mardini said that in the seven weeks since the demonstrations and violence began "we have exceeded the wounded caseload of the August 2014 war".
"This did not happen in a vacuum," he said. "This epic health crisis took place against the backdrop of multiple, protracted, chronic crises affecting all sectors of life in Gaza."
Warning that the Gaza health system was on "the brink of collapse", he said ICRC would boost its assistance over a six-month period to reinforce medical facilities "which are clearly struggling to cope".
Of the thousands wounded, some 1,350 people have complex injuries and will require between three and five surgeries each, Mardini said.
That is "a total of more than 4,000 surgeries, half of which will be carried out by ICRC teams," he said. "I think such a caseload would overwhelm any health system in the world."


‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

A mask-clad young Iraqi woman speaks to another during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, despite the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2020

‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

  • Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say

BAGHDAD: Seventeen years after US troops invaded their country and eight months since protests engulfed their cities, Iraqis are sending solidarity, warnings and advice to demonstrators across America.
Whether in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square or on Twitter, Iraqis are closely watching the unprecedented street protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck.
“I think what the Americans are doing is brave and they should be angry, but rioting is not the solution,” said Yassin Alaa, a scrawny 20-year-old camped out in Tahrir.
Only a few dozen Iraqis remain in tents in the capital’s main protest square, which just months ago saw security forces fire tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators, who shot back with rocks or occasionally Molotov cocktails.
Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say. Now, they want to share their lessons learned.
“Don’t set anything on fire. Stay away from that, because the police will treat you with force right from the beginning and might react unpredictably,” Alaa told AFP.
And most importantly, he insisted, stick together. “If blacks and whites were united and they threw racism away, the system can never stop them,” he said.
Across their country, Iraqis spotted parallels between the roots of America’s protests and their own society.
“In the US it’s a race war, while here it’s a war of politics and religion,” said Haider Kareem, 31, who protested often in Tahrir and whose family lives in the US.
“But the one thing we have in common is the injustice we both suffer from,” he told AFP.
Iraq has its own history of racism, particularly against a minority of Afro-Iraqis in the south who trace their roots back to East Africa.
In 2013, leading Afro-Iraqi figure Jalal Thiyab was gunned down in the oil-rich city of Basra — but discrimination against the community is otherwise mostly nonviolent.
“Our racism is different than America’s racism,” said Ali Essam, a 34-year-old Afro-Iraqi who directed a wildly popular play about Iraq’s protests last year.
“Here, we joke about dark skin but in America, being dark makes people think you’re a threat,” he told AFP.
Solidarity is spreading online, too, with Iraqis tweaking their own protest chants and slogans to fit the US.
In one video, an elderly Iraqi is seen reciting a “hosa” or rhythmic chant, used to rally people into the streets last year and now adapted to an American context.
“This is a vow, this a vow! Texas won’t be quiet now,” he bellowed, before advising Americans to keep their rallies independent of foreign interference — mimicking a US government warning to Iraqis last year. Others shared the hashtag “America Revolts.”
Another Arabic hashtag going viral in Iraq translates as “We want to breathe, too,” referring to Floyd’s last words.
Not all the comparisons have been uplifting, however.
The governor of Minnesota, the state in which Minneapolis is located, said the US street violence “was reminiscent of Mogadishu or Baghdad.”
And the troops briefly deployed by US President Donald Trump to quell unrest in Washington were from the 82nd Airborne — which had just returned from duty in Iraq.
“Trump is using the American army against the American people,” said Democrat presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
Iraqis have fought back online, tweeting “Stop associating Baghdad with turmoil,” in response to comparisons with their homeland.
Others have used biting sarcasm.
In response to videos of crowds breaking into shops across US cities, Iraqis have dug up an infamous quote by ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“Lawlessness and looting is a natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country,” he said in response to a journalist’s question on widespread looting and chaos in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion.