Skip to main content

War on Gaza: Pharmacies in Gaza forced to shut because of lack of medicines

Residents of Khan Younis and Rafah are struggling to find medicines amid the ongoing Israeli blockade
Relatives of Palestinians killed during Israeli bombardment, mourn their loved ones at the European hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 6, 2024 AFP
Relatives of Palestinians killed during the Israeli bombardment mourn their loved ones at the European hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, 6 January 2024 (AFP)
By Ruwaida Amer in Gaza, occupied Palestine

Pharmacies have been forced to shut in the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip because of a severe shortage of medicines, as Israel continues its onslaught on the enclave for the fourth month.

The population of Rafah has almost quadrupled since the beginning of the war on 7 October, with an estimated 1.2 million people now living in the city, most of them displaced.

Muhammad Salem, a 25-year-old Palestinian in Khan Younis, can no longer find medicines for his mother who suffers from osteoporosis and requires a weekly supply of drugs.

At the beginning of the war, he could still visit a downtown Khan Younis pharmacy to obtain a month's supply, hoping the conflict would soon cease. But the area is no longer accessible because of the siege imposed by the Israeli army and the presence of tanks there.

He then went to Rafah looking for pharmacies, but the last time he managed to find medicines was three weeks ago.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


"My mother's need for consistent treatment is critical due to her slow gait and osteoporosis,” he told Middle East Eye. 

The war subjected her to numerous shocks from constant bombings, adversely affecting her nervous system and triggering convulsions, he added. But hospitals are not capable of receiving cases like hers because of the surge in casualties following the Israeli army's incursion into Khan Younis city, and she now has to rely solely on painkillers.

'Why are medicines not allowed into Gaza? Is it their intention for us to die'

- Fayza Hajo, diabetic patient

Likewise, Fayza Hajo, a 62-year-old resident of Khan Younis, recounted her struggle as a diabetic patient unable to access treatment in Unrwa clinics. 

"I can’t find any open pharmacies. Our location in the besieged Al-Fukhari area confines us, with our only recourse being through Rafah city." 

The high concentration of displaced individuals in Rafah has resulted in depleted pharmaceutical supplies, leaving even basic treatments for headaches out of reach. Hayo frequently turns to the nearby Unrwa school for assistance, only to be informed that medicines are unavailable, and they await deliveries through the Rafah crossing.

"For us, chronic patients, ongoing medical care is vital to prevent a deterioration in our health. A significant rise in blood sugar levels could lead to a coma,” she told MEE.

Ghassan Abu Sittah: ‘This is what I saw in Gaza’ (Part 1) | Real Talk
Read More »

Months before the war, Hayo underwent foot surgery and required constant physical therapy, yet the absence of doctors due to displacement hinders her progress. 

“Why are medicines not allowed into Gaza? Is it their intention for us to die?" she asked.

Israel is imposing severe restrictions on the entry of aid and fuel to the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only gateway for Gaza that is not directly controlled by Israel.

Since 9 October, it announced a "total siege" on Gaza, barring entry of fuel, food, medicine and other essential commodities for the besieged Gaza population. 

A very limited amount of aid has been allowed to enter Gaza since the beginning of hostilities in October, with the World Health Organisation describing the supplies as "a drop in the ocean" compared to the average 500 daily humanitarian aid trucks that used to enter the Strip before the war.

Critical shortage

Within the European Hospital, patients are experiencing a shortage of medicines in the hospital pharmacy. 

Ziad Al-Khor, a resident of Jabalia camp, said that he sustained a foot injury during the Israeli army's incursion into the camp. Initially he was admitted to Al-Shifa Hospital  in northern Gaza for over three weeks, where he faced water shortages, and was later allowed to move to the European Hospital in the south. 

“Unfortunately, the conditions mirrored those at Al-Shifa, with a critical shortage of medications. Suffering severe pain, I am left with only painkillers,” he told MEE.

Israeli ministers attend 'Return to Gaza Conference', speak in support of resettlement
Read More »

Al-Khor explained that he urgently requires a foot operation and is awaiting registration for treatment outside Gaza. 

“I dread the prospect of amputation due to the lack of adequate treatment within Gaza."

In the Al-Fukhari area, north of Rafah in Khan Younis, a pharmacy near the European Hospital is struggling with the lack of medicines. 

Pharmacist Suleiman Al-Amour said that before the war, his pharmacy never experienced shortages, catering to both local residents and hospital patients. 

However, with the onset of the conflict and ongoing displacement, the population has increased significantly, with displaced people constantly seeking treatment for diseases that have proliferated among them due to the overcrowding and lack of sanitary conditions in camps. 

“Patients are desperately requesting medications for chronic illnesses, including antibiotics for children, as well as those for influenza, persistent coughs, and diarrhoea in children due to the harsh cold in their tents,” he said.

“Hospitals have completely run out of medicines, forcing the closure of the first branch of our pharmacies in the area, and now, the second branch is on the verge of closure due to the lack of medications,” he told MEE.

Gaza faces a critical shortage as medicines are exclusively allocated to hospitals, he explained, leaving citizens and pharmacies without sufficient coverage.

‘Genuine health disaster’

Dr Youssef Al-Akkad, the director of the European Hospital, explained to MEE that the hospital is facing an alarming deficit, lacking 95 percent of the necessary medications. He highlighted the critical shortage of essential drugs, such as antibiotics, pain relievers, medicines required for surgical procedures, including anaesthetics, and other vital medications essential for kidney patients and nurseries.

"Serious injuries are being managed with only basic painkillers," he said. 

War on Gaza: Palestinian officials denounce US and UK decision to pause Unrwa funding
Read More »

Al-Akkad warned about the imminent depletion of antibiotic medicines, which could also lead to a surge in wound infections. He clarified that the quantity received by the health ministry through the Rafah crossing is insufficient, covering merely three percent of the overall requirement.

Even when patients resort to private pharmacies, they don’t find medications.

“It’s a genuine health disaster,” he said.

The Palestinian health ministry on Monday said the ongoing Israeli onslaught on Gaza has killed at least 26,422 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children.

At least 65,087 have been wounded in attacks by the Israeli military, and more than 8,000 missing people are believed to be dead and buried under the rubble.

Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October resulted in the deaths of 1,139 people, including 695 Israeli civilians and 373 combatants, according to the latest data by Israel's social security agency. More than 200 people, including civilians and soldiers, were taken back to Gaza as captives.

After a number of prisoner exchange deals with Hamas, an estimated 130 Israeli captives are still in Gaza, according to the Israeli government.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.