Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said he fully understands the anger, grief and fear of the Israeli people following the barbaric attacks by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October, as well as that of the people of Gaza who have already suffered 16 years of blockade and are now enduring the destruction of their families and homes. “The situation on the ground is impossible to describe.” Hospital corridors crammed with the injured, the sick and the dying, morgues are overflowing and surgical procedures are being conducted without anaesthesia. Thousands of displaced people are sheltering at hospitals or crammed inside overcrowded schools, desperate for food and water. Seventy per cent of the more than 10,800 people have now been killed in Gaza are women and children, he said, adding: “On average, a child is killed every 10 minutes in Gaza.”
He noted that 1.5 million people are displaced and looking for shelter anywhere, but “nowhere and no one is safe”. Overcrowding is increasing the risk diarrheal and respiratory diseases and skin infections. WHO is on the ground in Gaza alongside its partners to support health workers doing their best in unimaginable conditions. In addition to caring for 27,000 wounded people, many with life-threatening injuries, medical staff are trying to manage the regular health needs of more than 2 million people. More than 180 women give birth in Gaza every day, he said, adding that there are also 9,000 patients in Gaza on cancer therapy and 350,000 with diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Since 7 October, WHO has verified more than 250 attacks on health-care facilities in Gaza and the West Bank, in addition to 25 attacks on health-care facilities in Israel, he said. Last week, WHO documented five attacks on five hospitals in one day. In the past 48 hours alone, four hospitals have been put out of action. Half of the Gaza Strip’s 36 hospitals and two thirds of its primary health-care centres are not functioning at all, while the others are operating way beyond their capacities. “The health system is on its knees and yet somehow is continuing to deliver some life-saving care.” The best way to support those health workers and patients is to give them the tools they need – medicines, medical equipment and fuel for hospital generators, he said.
WHO was part of the first aid convoy to enter Gaza through the Rafah Crossing on 21 October and has since delivered 63 metric tons of specialist medical equipment and supplies, but this does not address the scale of needs, he said. Before 7 October, an average of 500 trucks a day crossed into Gaza with essential supplies, but since 21 October, only 650 trucks have entered. He called for unfettered access to deliver humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, for Hamas to release hostages and for Israel to restore electricity, water and fuel supplies. He also called for a ceasefire and for both sides to abide by international humanitarian law. •
Source: https://press.un.org/en/2023/sc15487.doc.htm of 10 November 2023
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