I have worked in the Ministry of Health labs since 1995, starting after the arrival of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza. This lab analyzes the food and water available in the Gaza market. We also analyze nutrients and contaminants in the soil, mud, and waste water. Locally, we have 22 employees who travel across the Gaza Strip to gather specimens from all food items and to send them to our lab for testing.
Starting in 2000, the Ministry developed its labs to ensure the accurate analysis of specimens to identify violation with regulations in factories, food suppliers, etc. In the past I visited Norway, Italy, and Germany to learn how developed countries analyze specimens using modern equipment.
However, since 2006 the lab and analysis has deteriorated. We have approximately 10 machines in the Israeli ports, that are prohibited from entering Gaza for “security reasons.” As a result of being held for years in Israeli warehouses the machines have been ruined. We also have advanced equipment and machines in the Ministry of Health's warehouses in Gaza that we cannot use because the experts who can train us to use them are prohibited from entering Gaza.
Hence, we lack substantial knowledge regarding where the world has reached in analysis and disease control and prevention.
Another major hindrance since the beginning of the blockade is the prohibition of the chemicals that are needed for our analysis from entering Gaza. The pretext for prohibiting them is that someone could use them to fabricate arms. Scientifically, this is not possible because they are not weapons chemicals. We therefore are currently using alternative chemicals, very simple substitutes. Using these we get results that are not up to professional standards. They have a discrepancy of at least 20 percent. This is excessive especially in view of such sensitive analysis.
This problem puts us at risk for diseases and illnesses that we cannot detect. The market in Gaza contains many foods that enter through the Egyptian tunnels with no supervision or control and without knowing their sources. In addition, there is general negligence in food factories due to poor control and monitoring. This leads to the use of many carcinogenic items in food. This is shown in the large number of cancer patients in Gaza, where every day at least one to three cases are discovered. This is a high number compared to the population size.
The rockets that were dropped on Gaza during the three last wars also adversely affect the soil and the underground water. During the next few years, they will be the source of cancer and many other diseases in Gaza.
We are living a huge catastrophe.
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