Gaza Cancer Patients Miss Treatment as Israel Border Shut amid Fighting

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Friday, May 12, 2023. (AP)
Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Friday, May 12, 2023. (AP)
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Gaza Cancer Patients Miss Treatment as Israel Border Shut amid Fighting

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Friday, May 12, 2023. (AP)
Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish the fire inside an apartment that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Friday, May 12, 2023. (AP)

Gaza resident Dina El-Dhani was due to meet her oncologist this week at a hospital in Jerusalem, but she has been unable to cross into Israel since the border was closed amid heavy fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

Dhani is one of 432 cancer patients who have not been able to receive treatment since Tuesday, when Israel launched attacks on the Islamic Jihad militant group, setting off a surge in cross-border violence.

Her appointment with a doctor at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem was meant to determine which radiation treatment she will receive.

"They told me it is delayed. Do I have to wait another two months to get a new appointment?" said 40-year-old Dhani. "The crossing is life, because as patients our treatment doesn't exist here. (The border crossing) either enhances my treatment or enhances my departure."

The four days of fighting with intense Palestinian rocket fire and Israeli air strikes has disrupted the lives of millions of people.

Israel and Egypt, citing security concerns, maintain a blockade on Gaza, which is ruled by the Hamas movement.

The crossings this week have been under the constant threat of Palestinian rocket fire and remained shut, said a spokesperson for Israel's military-run liaison with the Palestinians.

Due to shortages of medical equipment and medicine, Gaza’s hospitals are unable to provide proper care for cancer patients. So most travel to Israel, the occupied West Bank, or other countries for treatment. Palestinian health officials blame the 16-year-old blockade for undermining the development of the health sector.

"Unfortunately, we live in between two crossings and are besieged from both directions (Israel and Egypt)," said Aya Kolab, 30, who was due for a genetic test at a hospital near Tel Aviv to help her treatment.

"All my dreams stopped because the war stopped me from going, as Erez crossing is closed," she wrote on social media, referring to the main passage to Israel.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said the border closure has prevented 432 cancer patients from visiting hospitals in Israel, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, 27 who are listed as "life-saving" referrals.



Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
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Climate Change Imperils Drought-Stricken Morocco’s Cereal Farmers and Its Food Supply

 A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)
A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country's entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.

The North African nation projects this year's harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.

"In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought," said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

Belhoussni's plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.

In North Africa, among the regions thought of as most vulnerable to climate change, delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.

In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.

"The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops," said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco's rivers.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year's wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year's 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).

Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.

"When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more," he said. "We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue."

Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.

The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco's primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world's sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Türkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.

"Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change," Benali said.