Painkillers can’t be found in Gaza’s pharmacies

The sound of explosions is constant in Rafah, southern Gaza. 

Abed Rahim Khatib ZUMA Press

I woke up at 3AM with a really bad pain in my right eye.

It was a sign that I was about to get a migraine, so I searched for a painkiller. Fortunately, I found one among the few belongings I had packed before leaving my home and moving southwards.

If I didn’t have that pill, it is likely that my migraine would have lasted for at least eight hours. I’ve been getting migraines for at least three years.

Later that day, I went looking for pharmacies in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city. My parents have rented a flat for our family in the city.

The first pharmacy I went to did not have the painkiller I needed. The second one had almost no medicines of any kind.

I went to five more pharmacies. None of them had the right medication for me or any substitute.

So I went to another neighborhood in Rafah that was about 15 minutes’ drive away. No luck there either.

My doctor gave me a prescription a couple of years ago for a preventive medicine that I am supposed to take once a day, as well as for painkillers that I take whenever a headache begins.

Before leaving the northern part of Gaza for the south, I went to a pharmacy to buy the medicines I needed. But I couldn’t find the preventive drug.

I was told that it had run out since the first week of Israel’s latest war on Gaza. All I could find were a few painkillers.

Ominous

The lack of medicines was ominous.

Before the war, I had been getting migraines about three times a month. I was following a particular diet, as well as taking the prescribed medicine.

Since the war began my migraines have become a lot more frequent.

My doctor had advised me to stay away from cheese and salty food.

With food scarce over the past two months, all I have to eat are canned goods containing such food as meat, peas and cheese distributed by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).

Sometimes, I have just one meal a day. At other times, I go without food, even bread.

As each migraine lasts at least eight hours, I have no choice but to get used to them.

In our one-bedroom flat in Rafah, I sleep beside three children, including a 2-month-old baby. The sound of explosions is constant.

We have no curtains in the flat. So I often lie down and put a blanket and a pillow over my eyes to block out the light.

And I wait for the migraine to go away.

I have lost everything

The war is having a huge impact on both my physical and mental health.

When the recent – and all-too-brief truce – began, a fellow journalist emailed me some photographs of our old home.

Israel had already attacked our street from the air in October. The photographs confirmed that the walls of our home had also been struck by shells fired from an Israeli tank during the subsequent ground invasion.

The pictures made me cry a lot. They brought back memories of my parents taking all of their savings from the bank and buying an apartment in March last year.

We renovated the flat and added new furniture before moving in.

Now my parents’ investment has been obliterated.

About a week after the airstrike on our street, I awoke to the news that my uncle and his extended family – a total of 12 people – had been massacred in Jabaliya refugee camp.

I was unable to break this devastating news to my parents. I simply ran to the bathroom and couldn’t stop weeping.

I let my brother call my dad to tell him about the massacre.

Before the war, I had opened a clothing store in Gaza City’s al-Watan Tower. It, too, has been destroyed by Israel.

I had been striving for some kind of financial stability. With the latest war, I have lost everything.

I nonetheless keep battling.

We have very little electricity or internet access.

My laptop was left behind in our home, when we had to flee. So I write articles on my phone.

I always get up at 8AM and try to find a way of charging my phone.

When it’s sunny, some phones can be charged using solar energy. I charge mine with the help of a neighbor.

When it’s cloudy or rainy, I head to the hospital. Workers at the reception charge the phone for me because they know I am a journalist.

I often work in the hospital’s yard until sunset. The internet connection is relatively fast there.

At other times, I charge the phone at a store. That costs me about 50 cents.

My doctor has told me that a cup of coffee can help reduce the pain from headaches for some people, not all. So when a migraine begins, I fetch a cup of coffee.

My doctor’s advice has proven helpful. But coffee isn’t always effective.

When the pain doesn’t diminish, I try my best to endure it and keep working.

Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman is a journalist living in Gaza.

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