Although Gaza is in the glare of media publicity, too little hard information is getting out about the scale of suffering endured by ordinary people under bombardment says a leading Catholic charity.
In an impassioned communication to Independent Catholic News and other agencies, Caritas Jerusalem says that "the crisis is both reaching cataclysmic proportions and showing no signs of abating."
Caritas comments: "Of the 884 people confirmed dead, at least 275 are children, 93 are women and 12 were medical personnel. Supplies of medicine, food and blankets are all at critically-low levels as humanitarian access remains extremely difficult."
Commenting on the Israeli bombing of an Anglican-run hospital last week, which completely destroyed it, the letter says "the day after the bombing took place another medical clinic was destroyed by another Israeli bomb. On Saturday, a clinic run by the Middle Eastern Council of Churches in Al-Shuja'ia, east of Gaza City was completely destroyed by another fighter jet."
It continues: "[Not only] have Caritas Jerusalem lost one of their six local medical points in Gaza, but the people of Maghazi are temporarily without medical support and over $10,000 worth of medical equipment was destroyed. Caritas Jerusalem staff are now struggling to stretch their operations to Maghazi from the existing point at Al Mosaddar.
"The bombing at the clinic comes at a time when medical supplies are severely depleted throughout Gaza. Since the medical points had decided to focus on minor injuries, thereby freeing up the hospitals for more serious cases, Caritas Jerusalem had already shared much of its stock of equipment to four hospitals. These include such essentials as adrenaline, syringes and alcohol. As the Caritas outlets come under severe pressure, the strain on the already-overloaded hospitals will only worsen.
"Fr Manuel Musallam, the Parish Priest of Gaza, said in a telephone conversation from Beit Hanoun this morning, "There are dead bodies lying on the streets. The clinics are carrying out operations on the floor and women have no place to give birth."
"One Caritas doctor has been carrying out clinical duties from his home because neither he nor the patients who depend on him have been able to reach the medical point. Another doctor had his home bombed on Sunday and because he doesn't know where he can live, his clinic's short term operations are also under question.
"Caritas Jerusalem have also opened new informal medical platforms in the schools where people are staying during the incursion. These platforms are being run by medical staff who have been forced to leave their homes and are actually living in the schools themselves. Through the provision of basic medical supplies from Caritas, they are able to administer basic assistance and help keep the burdens on the hospitals down.
"In the schools people are hungry, cold and afraid. Caritas has conducted so far a food distribution to 3000 people. Stories are pouring out of people sleeping three-to-a-blanket and near-freezing temperatures."