The head of the World Health Organization said on Sunday that it was all but impossible to improve Gaza’s “catastrophic” health situation, even as the executive board unanimously approved an emergency WHO request to ensure greater medical access.
Palestinian officials have also described a dire health situation in Gaza, where the Israeli onslaught has left most of the population homeless, with little electricity, food and clean water and a medical system on the brink of collapse.
The emergency measure proposed by Afghanistan, Qatar, Yemen and Morocco targets the passage of medical staff and supplies to Gaza, requires the WHO to document violence against medical staff and patients and secure funding for the reconstruction of hospitals.
“I have to be honest: these tasks are almost impossible under the current circumstances,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros told the 34-member board in Geneva that medical needs in Gaza had increased and the risk of disease had increased, but the health system had been reduced to a third of its pre-conflict capacity.
Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician who heads the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees with 25 teams operating in Gaza, said: “Half of Gaza is starving now.”
He said 350,000 people had infections, including 115,000 with severe respiratory infections and without warm clothing, blankets and shelter from rain.
He said many suffered from stomach ailments because there was little clean water and insufficient fuel for cooking, which could lead to outbreaks of dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
“To make matters worse, we have 46,000 injured people who cannot be treated properly because most hospitals are not functioning,” he said.
As part of Israel’s response to deadly Hamas attacks on October 7, hospitals in the Gaza Strip were bombed and some were besieged or raided. Those that remain open are overwhelmed by the number of dead and wounded arriving and sometimes procedures are carried out without anesthesia.
A WHO database shows that there have been 449 attacks on health facilities in Palestinian territories since October 7, with no blame attributed.
Tedros said it was difficult to meet the panel’s demands given the security situation on the ground and deeply regretted that the United Nations Security Council was unable to agree on a ceasefire after a U.S. veto.
“The supply of health facilities has become extremely difficult and is severely affected by the security situation on the ground and inadequate supplies from outside the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila complained about the critical shortage of medicines. “The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated,” she told the WHO meeting via video link.
WHO board member USA signaled at the meeting that it would not object to the text of the motion, which was adopted without a vote later on Sunday.
The motion was criticized by Israel, which said it focused disproportionately on Israel and did not address what it described as Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields by placing command centers and weapons in hospitals.
“If this session serves any purpose, it will only encourage Hamas’ actions,” Israeli Ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar said at the meeting. Israel is not a board member of the WHO.
WHO emergency meetings are rare and have taken place during health crises, including during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2015. The meeting was chaired by Qatar, which is mediating in the Israel-Hamas conflict has.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Source : www.ndtv.com