Thousands of Palestinians shot by Israeli military face amputation due to lack of medical care

A lack of health care in Gaza means many wounded protesters will lose limbs that could otherwise be saved

A Palestinian amputee using crutches participates in a football training overseen by Irish coach Simon Baker, general secretary of the European Amputee Football Federation, Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 11, 2019. Palestinians have been holding often violent demonstrations along the heavily-guarded Israel-Gaza border for more than a year. More than 6,500 Palestinians have been shot by Israeli fire, according to Palestinian statistics, the overwhelming majority in the legs. More than 125 have had amputations, with many others permanently disabled. / AFP / SAID KHATIB
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The 1,700 Palestinians most seriously injured by Israeli gunfire in recent protests will probably need amputations because of a lack of health funding, the UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Palestine said on Wednesday.

Jamie McGoldrick said 29,000 Palestinians had been wounded in protests in the past year, and 7,000 of them had gunshot wounds, mostly in the lower legs.

"You've got 1,700 people who are in need of serious, complicated surgery for them to be able to walk again," Mr McGoldrick said.

"These are people who have been shot during the demonstrations and who are in need of rehabilitation, and very, very serious and complex bone reconstruction surgery over a two-year period before they start to rehabilitate themselves."

Without those procedures, all these people face amputation of limbs that could otherwise be saved, he said.

The UN is seeking $20 million (Dh73.4m) to fill the gap in healthcare funding.

A lack of funding to the World Food Programme and the UN humanitarian agency that supports Palestinians displaced by the 1948 war after Israel's foundation also meant there could be an interruption of food for one million people.

Last year, four Gulf Arab countries including the UAE helped to reduce a $446m deficit in the budget of the UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees to just $21m, despite the US withholding its contribution.

"If that stops, there is no alternative for people to bring food in from any other sources because they don't have purchasing power," Mr McGoldrick said.

The agency's long-term stability is in doubt but it says it will fix that through new funding streams being developed with the World Bank.

New fundraising methods include a multi-donor trust fund and the establishment of a waqf, or Islamic trust.

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said a severe lack of funds meant the programme had cut aid for 193,000 people this year in the West Bank and Gaza.

That meant 27,000 received nothing and the rest received only $8 a month instead of the usual $10.

About two million Palestinians live in Gaza, the economy of which has suffered from years of Israeli and Egyptian blockades, and recent foreign aid cuts and sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

Prospects for Gazans were precarious, Mr McGoldrick said. Families average $4,000 of debt, while salaries average $400 a month and 54 per cent of the population are unemployed.

The health system is impoverished with unpaid salaries and dilapidated equipment, and many medical professionals left if they could find opportunities elsewhere.

One teaching hospital was now only teaching trauma medicine, Mr McGoldrick said, but the doctors did not have the technical ability to treat the people at risk of amputation.

There have already been 120 amputations, 20 of them in children, in the past year, he said.