Monday, February 26, 2024

WHO confirms almost 450 attacks on health services in Gaza, West Bank since early October

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has confirmed nearly 450 attacks on health services in Gaza and the West Bank since Oct. 7. He cautioned "now the work of the health workers is impossible".

Speaking at a special session organized by the WHO executive board on the health situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Tedros emphasized the catastrophic impact of conflicts on the health situation in Gaza.

“More than 17,000 people are reported to have died in Gaza, including 7,000 children and we don’t know how many are buried under the rubble of their homes. More than 46,000 injuries have been reported,” he said.

As many as “1.9 million people have been displaced – almost the entire population of the Gaza Strip – and are looking for shelter anywhere they can find it. Nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza”, he added.

He emphasized that health should never be a target, saying on average, there is one shower unit for every 700 people and one toilet for every 150 people, and there are worrying signals of epidemic diseases including bloody diarrhea, and jaundice. According to him, only 14 hospitals out of the original 36 are partially functional.

“As more and more people move to a smaller and smaller area, overcrowding, combined with the lack of adequate food, water, shelter and sanitation, are creating the ideal conditions for disease to spread.”

The WHO chief emphasized their support for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a permanent and urgent humanitarian cease-fire to ensure the delivery of critical aid to those in urgent need in the Gaza Strip.

“A cease-fire is the only way to truly protect and promote the health of the people of Gaza. I deeply regret that the Security Council was unable to adapt a resolution on such a cease-fire last Friday,” he continued, referring to the US veto blocking the international calls for a truce.

Israel, in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian group Hamas, launched air and ground attacks on the besieged enclave, killing thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, and forced some 1.9 million people to flee their homes. Gazans also face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods as only a trickle of aid is allowed in.

The WHO has also agreed on a resolution, the first by any United Nations agency, calling for immediate access to vital humanitarian aid and an end to the fighting in Gaza.

The resolution – calling for the “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel” – was adopted by consensus at the end of a special session of the WHO’s Executive Board on Sunday.

It also called on “all parties to fulfill their obligations under international law” and reaffirmed “that all parties to armed conflict must comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and medical personnel.”

The special meeting of the executive board was only the seventh in the WHO’s 75-year history.

The passage of the resolution “underscores the importance of health as a universal priority, in all circumstances, and the role of healthcare and humanitarianism in building bridges to peace, even in the most difficult of situations”, the WHO underlined after the meeting.

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