WHO warns Gazans in desperate situation as hospitals shut down


Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 18th Nov. World health agency on Friday issued a new warning about the desperate situation of civilians in Gaza, with the number of medical facilities operational “clearly not enough to support the endless needs” created by more than five weeks of hostilities.

Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said “What we do know is that the health system is on its knees,”  after the Hamas militants’ terror attack on Israel on 7 October that left 1,400 dead and the heavy bombardment of the enclave by the Israeli military in response.

He was speaking from Jerusalem to journalists in Geneva via Zoom, explained that 47 out of 72 primary healthcare centres were no longer functioning and others were only partially functioning.

Dr. Richard Peeperkorn said 75 per cent of hospitals (35 to 36) were no longer operational. “So there’s clearly not enough support for this endless need”.

UN agency for Palestine refugees reported a communications blackout in Gaza on Thursday as telecoms firms ran out of fuel to run their generators.

The shutdown threatened to disrupt the coordination of humanitarian aid convoys on Friday, the UN agency said.

Dr.Peeperkorn said that before the conflict erupted, Gazans had access to 3,500 hospital beds. Today, only an estimated 1,400 are available, the actual requirement is likely closer to 5,000.

He added that in Gaza City, meanwhile, “active ground operations” “along with the lack of fuel, had halted the movement of rescue teams and ambulances in many areas”.

UN aid coordination office OCHA reported 24 hours had seen “heavy airstrikes, shelling and fighting”.

It said that the bulletin detailed an airstrike on 15 November at about 6pm “during the evening prayer time (in) the vicinity of the Ihya’ As Sunna Mosque in As Sabra neighbourhood” of Gaza City “reportedly killing 50 people and injuring others”.

OCHA bulletin updated information about Israeli troops and tanks that have been their raid on the vast Al-Shifa hospital compound, reportedly taking control of several sections.

It cited the hospital’s director, the UN agency said that the southern section of the compound had been damaged “including the radiology department, and the forces took several corpses from within the hospital”.

According to OCHA, some 807,000 Palestinians remain in the north of Gaza which represents about two-thirds of the population there before the latest escalation. The other third of the population, about 400,000, have fled to the South.

“Hundreds of thousands” of those left in the north now shelter in public facilities, including schools, hospitals and with host families.

Dr.Peeperkorn said that a lack of fuel, water, food and medical supplies has made it harder for the hospitals and health facilities still “partially operational” to help them.

WHO is extremely concerned about the spread of diseases as the rainy season and winter arrive. Overcrowding in shelters and the overall lack of water and sanitation across Gaza could increase the risk of transmission,” he said.

He cited data from the Gazan Ministry of Health, UNRWA and WHO, added that there had been 71,224 recorded cases of acute respiratory infections, 44,202 cases of diarrhoea (22,554 in children under five), 808 cases of chickenpox, and more than 14,195 skin rashes, 10,952 cases of scabies and lice.

UN independent rights expert Pedro Arrojo-Agudo urged Israel to stop using water as a weapon of war.

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation Pedro Arrojo-Agudo said that clean water and fuel needs to be allowed into Gaza to activate the water supply network and desalination plants in the besieged enclave “before it is too late.”

“Every hour that passes with Israel preventing the provision of safe drinking water in the Gaza strip, in brazen breach of international law, puts Gazans at risk of dying of thirst and diseases related to the lack of safe drinking water,” he said.

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