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The World Health Organization warns that the situation in Gaza is spiraling out of control, with hospitals shutting down due to endless needs.
Middle East World News

The World Health Organization warns that the situation in Gaza is spiraling out of control, with hospitals shutting down due to endless needs.

“What we do know is that the health system is on its knees,” said Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, World Health Organization Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in the wake of Hamas militants’ terror attack on Israel on 7 October that left 1,200 dead and the heavy bombardment of the enclave by the Israeli military in response.  

‘Endless need’ 

He spoke to reporters in Geneva through Zoom from Jerusalem and stated that 47 out of 72 primary healthcare centers were not in operation and some were only partially operational. Approximately 75% of hospitals (35 to 36) were also not functioning. He expressed concern over the lack of support for the ongoing demand.

The UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, recently announced a communication blackout in Gaza on Thursday due to a lack of fuel for telecoms companies’ generators. This could potentially disrupt the coordination of humanitarian aid convoys on Friday, according to the agency.

Rescue teams halted  

Dr. Peeperkorn stated that prior to the conflict, the people of Gaza had access to approximately 3,500 hospital beds. However, currently only about 1,400 beds are available, despite the fact that the actual need is closer to 5,000. He also mentioned that in Gaza City, ongoing ground operations and fuel shortages have caused rescue teams and ambulances to be unable to reach many areas.

According to the most recent report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Thursday evening, the previous 24 hours were marked by intense airstrikes, shelling, and combat.

The report stated that an airstrike occurred on November 15 at approximately 6pm, during the evening prayer, near the Ihya’ As Sunna Mosque in the As Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City. It is reported to have resulted in 50 deaths and injuries to others.

The OCHA bulletin provided an update on the Israeli military’s ongoing operation at the extensive Al-Shifa hospital compound, including reports of troops and tanks gaining control of multiple areas.

According to the hospital director mentioned by the UN agency, the southern part of the compound suffered damage, particularly to the radiology department, and there were reports of bodies being removed by the forces.

Approximately 807,000 individuals of Palestinian descent continue to reside in the northern area of the enclave, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the pre-escalation population, as reported by OCHA. The remaining third, estimated at 400,000 people, have likely been displaced to the southern portion.

“Tens of thousands” of individuals remaining in the northern region are currently seeking refuge in public facilities such as schools and hospitals, as well as with host families.

Soaring needs 

According to Dr. Peeperkorn, the increasing demand for healthcare has been hindered by a shortage of fuel, water, food, and medical supplies, making it more difficult for the limited number of hospitals and health facilities that are still functioning to provide assistance.

“WHO is extremely concerned about the spread of diseases as the rainy season and winter arrive. Overcrowding in shelters and the overall lack of water and sanitation across Gaza could increase the risk of transmission,” he said. 

According to reports from the Gazan Ministry of Health, UNRWA, and WHO, there were a total of 71,224 reported instances of acute respiratory infections, 44,202 cases of diarrhea (22,554 of which were in children under five years old), 808 cases of chickenpox, and over 14,195 cases of skin rashes. Additionally, there were 10,952 cases of scabies and lice.

Weaponizing water 

In a similar update, a human rights expert designated by the United Nations called on Israel to cease the use of water as a tactic of warfare.

Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, emphasized the urgent need for clean water and fuel to be permitted into Gaza in order to activate the water supply network and desalination plants. He warned that time is running out and action must be taken before it’s too late for the besieged enclave.

According to the speaker, Israel’s continuous denial of safe drinking water to the Gaza strip, which violates international law, increases the danger of Gazans dying from dehydration and illnesses caused by the absence of clean water.

The Human Rights Council appoints Special Rapporteurs and other independent experts who are not affiliated with the UN or compensated for their duties. They remain unbiased from any government or organization.