Gaza kidney patients facing death with lack of dialysis treatment and clean water

More than 1,000 kidney patients require life-saving treatment in the enclave

Kidney patients at Al Najjar Hospital, in the Rafah camp in southern Gaza. EPA
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Kidney dialysis patients in Gaza are unable to receive life-saving treatment due to the collapse in the health system in the enclave, with the war in Gaza now into its fifth month.

Saleh Al Nathr, a kidney dialysis patient from Jabalia camp north of the Gaza Strip, says he faces death every day.

“I truly feel that these are the last hours of my life after losing hope in the regularity of my kidney dialysis sessions that I have been accustomed to since I was a young child,” Mr Al Nathr told The National.

He was diagnosed with kidney failure at the age of nine and has been on regular dialysis since then. Initially, it was one session a week before it was increased to twice a week after three years of treatment.

Before the war started on October 7, dialysis was available at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza city. The compound was easily accessible to patients.

“This war came and destroyed everything, even though we have experienced many wars and difficulties in our lives as kidney patients, but the suffering we are currently experiencing we have not seen before,” he said.

Mr Al Nathr has been cut off from dialysis several times during the Israel-Gaza war and once went more than a month without any dialysis treatment. This worsened his condition, particularly as medication that could help him were also not available.

“I have become desperate. I surrender to God, especially after hearing that some of my fellow patients have passed away,” Mr Al Nathr said.

The scarcity of available clean drinking water in northern Gaza also affects kidney failure patients leading to severe complications.

“The issue of food also significantly affects us because as patients, we need to eat healthy, balanced meals rich in nutrients, but this has been absent from us for months,” Saeb Jinad, a kidney patient from the Jabalia camp, told The National.

Many children in Gaza are struggling to access life-saving treatment.

Rida, 13, in Gaza city often goes weeks without dialysis.

Signs of extreme fatigue are starting to show and her father is worried she could soon die.

“Sometimes she faints and falls to the ground, and I feel helpless that I can't do anything for her,” Subhi Ayya told The National.

He used to take his daughter to a clinic affiliated with the Indonesian Hospital, but it significantly reduced its hours at the start of the war, due to continued shelling.

“In the beginning, things were somewhat normal and we used to go to Al Shifa Hospital. But after the Israelis tried to besiege it, we were afraid to even attempt to get there,” he said.

Damaged dialysis machines

During the November ceasefire, Gaza's Ministry of Health was trying to operate the centre. Mr Ayya managed to take Rida for one dialysis session. But for weeks after, he was unable to take her because of Israeli forces surrounding the complex.

Last month, the dialysis department at Al Shifa Hospital restarted. Parts of the hospital have been destroyed and amid severe fuel shortages, some machines are forced to shut down for long periods.

“The frequency of dialysis sessions decreased,” he said. “Now she can barely have one session per week."

The kidney department is suffering from a shortage of medical supplies and frequent device malfunctions due to the complex's inability to operate the electricity generators.
Dr Ghazi Alyazji, head of the nephrology department at Al Shifa

According to Dr Ghazi Alyazji, the head of the Nephrology department at Al Shifa Hospital, kidney dialysis sessions have been reduced to twice a week, from three times, due to the lack of water and the necessary fuel to operate the electricity generators.

“Currently, we have 40 kidney patients receiving treatment at Al Shifa, undergoing dialysis twice a week, with each session lasting 4 hours. In reality, this is not sufficient because some of them require three sessions, and sometimes more," Dr Alyazji told The National.

He said that, before the war, there were 450 patients with kidney failure receiving treatment at Al Shifa Hospital out of 1,100 patients distributed across seven centres in Gaza.

“The kidney department is suffering from a shortage of medical supplies and frequent device malfunctions due to the complex's inability to operate the electricity generators," he said.

“The imbalance in the diet of kidney failure patients exacerbates the crisis significantly and increases the suffering.”

Mr Al Nathr's family offered to move to the south so that he could get his dialysis sessions, but he refused: “I would not leave our home at all. Whatever God has written for us will happen.

“I wonder what the world is waiting for to stop this war and show mercy on us, especially us patients, as each day one of us passes away. Moreover, we can't find anything to eat like the rest of the people, and we are starving because of the famine we are experiencing.”

Updated: March 05, 2024, 3:14 PM