Time running out, healthcare in Gaza at breaking point: WHO

Calls for end to hostilities, defence of civilians and medical facilities against attacks

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 13 October 2023
Israel has intensified its retaliation in Gaza. Screengrab from video: @netanyahu / X (formerly Twitter)

The World Health Organization has raised alarm over the mounting pressure on the healthcare system in Gaza Strip. Time is running out to avert a humanitarian disaster if fuel and life-saving health and humanitarian supplies are not urgently delivered to the region despite the total blockade, it said on October 12, 2023. 

Hospitals have only a few hours of electricity each day because they are forced to ration depleting fuel reserves and rely on generators to keep the most critical functions running, the global health body said in a statement. Even these functions will have to be suspended in a few days when fuel supplies run out. 

Israel is cutting off electricity, fuel and food supplies to the Gaza Strip and has intensified its retaliation in the region. A “complete siege” of Gaza has been ordered, seeking to stop the supply of electricity, food, water and fuel to the already blockaded population of approximately 2.3 million people. 

The most vulnerable patients would be the most affected, including the injured who require lifesaving surgery, patients in intensive care units and newborns who require care in incubators, according to the WHO.

As the number of injuries and deaths continues to rise as a result of the ongoing air strikes on Gaza, acute shortages of medical supplies are exacerbating the crisis, limiting the response capacity of already overburdened hospitals to treat the sick and injured. 

The situation has also severely hampered the delivery of essential health services such as obstetric care, the management of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer and heart disease and the treatment of common infections. This is because all health facilities have been forced to prioritise lifesaving emergency care. 

Access for emergency medical teams in the field is severely hampered by infrastructure damage, according to the global health body. Since October 7, 2023, the WHO has documented 34 attacks on health care in Gaza, resulting in the deaths of 11 health workers on duty, 16 injuries, and damage to 19 health facilities and 20 ambulances. 

A WHO Emergency Officer in Gaza, described the dire situation unfolding there, in a post on microblogging site X (formerly Twitter). “Health facilities are at a breaking point, fuel is running out, & supplies are not enough to meet the needs,” said Dr Husam. 

Without the immediate entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza, particularly health services, medical supplies, food, clean water, fuel, and non-food items, humanitarian and health partners will be unable to meet the urgent needs of people in desperate need. Each lost hour puts more people in danger.

An end to hostilities and the defence of civilians and medical facilities against attacks were demanded by the global health agency. It also demanded the immediate creation of a humanitarian corridor to guarantee unhindered access for personnel, medical equipment, and humanitarian supplies, as well as for patients and the injured.

It further reiterated its call for the respect and protection of healthcare.

“WHO is ready to immediately dispatch trauma and essential health supplies through its logistics hub in Dubai and working with partners to ensure that they can reach the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing. Urgent access through the crossing is essential so that WHO and other humanitarian agencies can act quickly to help save lives,” it stated. 

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