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Gaza conflict and the impact on older people's health

22 Nov 2012

Hakma, 73, from Gaza suffers from diabetes and had part of one of her legs amputated as a result. Older people like her are particularly vulnerable in emergency situations. (c) Sarah Marzouk/HelpAge InternationalThe situation in Gaza has been unimaginable. We have been living under fire, not being able to sleep, leave our homes or even go to the shops.

Every minute you would expect an air rocket or a bomb and when it happened, you found yourself screaming. The sound is awful and for a second you feel like your heart has stopped, like a very strong earthquake is hitting you.

Children and older people most vulnerable

In the midst of this, you can't forget the children around you or your parents. From my experience in the last war and this one, the most sensitive groups are children and older people. Both groups can be unable to respond to a situation like this. Most of the time they are trapped until someone can help and fear can badly affect their health.

My mother, for example, has hypertension and many times during the conflict her blood pressure was very high. We were very worried that even if we took her to hospital she would not get treated as all the staff would be caring for the injured. 

My aunt who is diabetic was also badly affected. She felt very drowsy and was suffering from headaches; she badly needed insulin, but she wasn't able to go to the clinic. According to Ministry of Health reports in Gaza, most older people suffer from at least two chronic conditions simultaneously, such as hypertension, diabetes, rheumatism, heart complications and respiratory disorders.

Stress heightens other health problems

Older people can also suffer a lot from anxiety. They are worried about their children and grandchildren, their health and needs and if they can move quickly if their house is hit or they are attacked. Many older people are already in poor health, socially isolated and suffer from depression. You can imagine how all the surrounding psychological stress affects them...

It's also very cold in Gaza at the moment. Despite this, we were either forced to leave the windows open in case our houses were hit or, if there had been bombings close by, chances are that the windows are smashed.

This exposes older people to other diseases like respiratory infections, flu, and convulsions when it's very cold at night. Most houses don't have first aid kits or even basic drugs to deal with these conditions.

Children and older people need our support in these difficult times.

Read our statement on the conflict in Gaza.

If you are in the UK, you can donate to Age International to ensure that older people affected by the Gaza conflict are not forgotten.

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Author profile

Ibrahim Shaath
Country: Occupied Palestinian territories
Job title: Project Coordinator

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.