Gaza Health System ‘a Tragedy, Nightmare’ – WHO Chief

Gaza reels under new massacres carried out by the Israeli army. (Photo: Anas al-Sharif, via social media)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said that ‘the decimation of the Gaza health system is a tragedy.”

He also said that Al-Shifa Hospital is  “a microcosm of the nightmare playing out across Gaza, where drastic shortages of medicines, food, power, water and – above all – safety imperil the population.

In a post on X, he said that Al-Shifa was once Gaza’s biggest hospital, but “relentless hostilities and massive numbers of wounded people have brought its capacities to its knees. Now, it can only deliver the most basic of first aid.

On December 23, the WHO along with its partners delivered supplies to Al-Shifa and visited three other hospitals in multiple convoys, he said on Monday. 

A supply of 19,200 liters of generator fuel was delivered to Al-Shifa which will help revive vital services, “however, more will be needed.”

The hospital’s oxygen plant was destroyed during Israel’s assault on the territory.

Displacement and Hunger

Ghebreyesus said Al-Shifa is providing refuge to 50,000 displaced people, according to hospital authorities. 

“Indeed, colleagues saw its surgery wing and other wards overflowing with Gazans seeking safety and shelter,” he said. 

The WHO chief also said people there are suffering from hunger, “and the risk of famine is real, as it is across Gaza.”

He said amid dire food shortages, the search for food is forcing people into horrible states of hunger and leading some – out of desperation – to take supplies from delivery trucks, as occurred during the joint mission.

“I can only imagine the torment that would drive people to such lengths,” he stressed.

Ghebreyesus warned that sustained humanitarian access is essential for humanitarians to deliver food, water, fuel, medicines, and other supplies safely, and continuously, to over 2 million people.

“But such guaranteed, ongoing, safe access has not yet been put in place,” he said.

Lack of Medical Specialists, Supplies

The joint mission also visited the NGO-run Patient Friends Hospital, which provides maternity, trauma and emergency care.

It performs six to eight operations a day, the WHO chief said, “but lacks specialized vascular surgeons, neurosurgeons and intensive care staff, plus antibiotics, pain relief medicines and external fixators.

He shared that Al-Helou Hospital, which specializes in maternity care, manages ten to fifteen deliveries daily, including four C-sections.

“It urgently needs fuel, food and drinking water,” he said.

The larger Al-Sahaba Maternity Hospital, which handles around 20 deliveries, including 12 C-sections, daily, is functioning with only three doctors, only one of whom can perform C-sections. It faces oxygen, antibiotics and anesthesia shortages, he added.

“Hospitals should be places for care and recovery, not danger and unrelenting suffering,” said the UN chief.

Despite the situation, Ghebreyesus commended the doctors working under dire conditions. 

“But in the face of constant insecurity and inflows of wounded patients, we see doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and more continue striving to save lives,” he added. 

“The WHO will continue supporting the capacities of Al-Shifa and other health facilities across Gaza so they can provide life-saving care.”

The WHO chief once again said: “What we urgently need is a Ceasefire NOW.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 20,674 Palestinians have been killed, and 54,536 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7. Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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