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Many people affected by health emergencies are not receiving the necessary life-saving assistance.
Africa Middle East Science & Health

Many people affected by health emergencies are not receiving the necessary life-saving assistance.

The World Health Organization has issued a warning about the potential for millions of individuals affected by conflicts to die from severe injuries and contagious illnesses due to a lack of access to crucial humanitarian assistance.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, made a strong statement condemning the Israeli government for preventing necessary aid from reaching Gaza.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Tedros announced that the planned humanitarian trip to northern Gaza, which would have been the sixth since December 26, had to be called off due to our requests being denied and no guarantee of safe passage being given.

Providing humanitarian assistance in Gaza remains extremely difficult due to various obstacles. These include heavy bombing, limited mobility, lack of fuel, and disrupted communication, which prevent WHO and its collaborators from reaching those who require aid. We urge Israel to grant permission for WHO and other organizations to deliver humanitarian assistance. The safety and integrity of healthcare must always be upheld and not targeted or turned into a military target.

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) report that Gaza is facing a combination of factors that are causing an increase in disease. Since January 1, they have recorded almost 200,000 respiratory infections and tens of thousands of cases of scabies, lice, skin rashes, and jaundice.

The organization reports that there were 2,140 instances of diarrhea in children under the age of five in Gaza during the time period of 2021-2022. However, by November of 2023, that number had skyrocketed to 42,655 cases, a 20-fold increase.

“I believe this is an underestimate,” stated Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative for the occupied Palestinian territory, during a speech in Jerusalem. “Due to lack of access to health facilities, the situation is most likely even more dire.”

He cautioned that if the situation does not improve, there may be an increase in outbreaks and fatalities.

Palestinians line up with their children to receive vaccine shots for them, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Jan. 2, 2024. Vaccines were unavailable for weeks due to the war and are still scarce in many parts of Gaza.

Palestinian parents in Rafah, located in the southern Gaza Strip, gather with their children to receive vaccinations on Jan. 2, 2024. The ongoing conflict has resulted in a shortage of vaccines for several weeks, and access remains limited in various areas of Gaza.

According to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled Gaza, a total of 23,357 Palestinians have lost their lives and 59,410 have been wounded since October 7 when Hamas militants attacked Israel, resulting in the death of 1,200 individuals and the capture of 220 hostages.

The World Health Organization states that without a proper deconfliction system in place, it is currently unfeasible to reach the population in Gaza due to the significant destruction of the region’s public health infrastructure and ongoing intense hostilities.

Michael Ryan, director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, stated that they have received multiple feedback stating that the U.N. is not taking sufficient action.

“If the destruction of infrastructure and services continues at this pace, who should be held accountable when those who come to offer aid and save lives are blamed?” He expressed, “We are present and actively assisting. We have the potential to do more, but we lack the resources to do so at the moment.”

During a virtual briefing on Friday, Colonel Elad Goren, leader of the civil department of COGAT (the Israeli agency responsible for coordinating aid in Gaza), stated that the claim of a blockade is entirely untrue.

He stated that he has been informed by the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations that there is an adequate supply of food in Gaza. He also mentioned that efforts are being made to increase the number of trucks at the borders and distribute them with the help of humanitarian agencies.

He stated that Israel will not hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza who are not involved in terrorism. They are not considered enemies.

Although Gaza remains a prominent topic in international news, the director-general of the WHO, Tedros, has issued a warning about the millions of individuals facing violence, displacement, disease, famine, and death in other conflict-ridden countries, particularly Sudan and Ethiopia. It is vital that these individuals are not overlooked or forgotten.

In the last month, he reported that half a million individuals have been forced to leave Al-Gezira state due to ongoing conflict. This state was previously known as a safe haven from the fighting in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue with their jerrycans to collect drinking water at a distribution point at the Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad, Dec. 7, 2023.

Refugees fleeing the conflict in Sudan queue with their jerrycans to collect drinking water at a distribution point at the Ourang refugee camp in Adre, Chad, Dec. 7, 2023.

“WHO has temporarily suspended its activities in Al-Gezira due to safety issues,” stated the spokesperson. Al-Gezira is a crucial region for Sudan’s food production, but ongoing conflict has disrupted the annual harvest and heightened the threat of food insecurity in affected areas.

Tedros stated that the situation has worsened, particularly for Sudanese children, since the conflict began in mid-April. He mentioned that around 3.5 million children under the age of 5, which is one in seven, are currently experiencing severe malnutrition. Furthermore, over 100,000 of these children require hospitalization due to severe acute malnutrition.

Tedros expressed deep worry about the deteriorating health emergency in certain areas of Ethiopia. He mentioned that the Amhara region in the northwest has been heavily impacted by conflict since April, and that limitations on movement were hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid.

He stated that the ongoing conflict is impacting people’s ability to reach healthcare facilities due to their destruction, presence of blockades, and other barriers. As a result, health authorities are facing challenges in providing training and supplies, as well as transporting samples for laboratory testing in various regions.

According to reports, there has been a rise in disease outbreaks in the northern regions of Ethiopia due to conflict, drought, economic difficulties, and malnutrition. This is particularly prevalent in the Tigray and Amhara regions, where many individuals are facing conditions similar to famine. The main priority at this time is to gain access to these affected areas in order to properly evaluate the situation and provide necessary aid.