UPDATE: The crisis at the Gaza hospital persists as heavy rain causes additional concern.
The Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a statement expressing his grave concern about the dire conditions and significant loss of life seen in Gaza’s medical facilities.
The Secretary-General reiterated the statement, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the name of humanity.
“According to WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris, the current rainy weather will only worsen the hardships faced by people in the Strip. This comes at a time when issues with sewage pumping and water shortages have led to an increase in waterborne illnesses and bacterial infections.”
Last week, the World Health Organization issued a warning that there have been over 33,500 cases of diarrhoea reported since mid-October. These cases primarily affect children under the age of five, which is 16 times higher than the monthly average.
UNRWA-operated facilities in southern Gaza, which have provided refuge for more than 580,000 displaced individuals following Israel’s retaliatory actions against Hamas’ 7 October assaults, are significantly overcrowded and therefore, pose additional health hazards.
Dr. Harris urgently pleaded for a ceasefire to take place immediately.
The families of hostages in Geneva
In Geneva, the relatives of 238 hostages who have been held by Hamas in Gaza since October 7th are expected to continue advocating for their loved ones’ release on Tuesday.
A gathering has been scheduled for the families of hostages to meet with Mirjana Spoljaric, who serves as the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a humanitarian organization partnered with the United Nations.
The ICRC released a statement announcing that Ms. Spoljaric will be meeting with Israeli officials. The organization has been continuously advocating for the release of hostages in Gaza, including direct communication with Hamas and other influential parties.
Health professionals are doing their best to provide assistance.
Dr. Harris from WHO provided a thorough account of the critical circumstances at Al-Shifa hospital. The Israeli Defense Forces have targeted this hospital, alleging that Hamas has set up a command center there, but medical personnel have refuted this claim.
Dr. Harris praised the courageous healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly despite the lack of power and resources at the facility since November 11th. With limited food and clean water, these workers are doing their best to continue providing care. The facility currently has 700 patients and over 400 health staff, as well as 3,000 displaced individuals seeking shelter. Sadly, there have been 20 patient deaths in the last two days, according to Dr. Harris.
According to reports, up to six newborns at Al-Shifa hospital have died in the last three days due to power outages rendering their incubators inoperable.
Evacuation ‘very difficult’
When asked if it was possible to move the patients, Dr. Harris stated that the patients at Al-Shifa were in critical condition and needed constant care to survive. He acknowledged that relocating them would be a challenging task even in ideal conditions, let alone during ongoing bombings, armed conflicts, and a shortage of fuel for ambulances.
She urged that the most effective approach would be to cease the conflict immediately and prioritize preserving lives instead of ending them.
Count the number of assaults on medical centers
Dr. Harris from WHO reported that within the last month, there have been approximately 135 assaults on healthcare facilities in Gaza, marking the highest amount recorded in a brief period.
She expressed her hope that this is the worst we will ever experience.
The representative from WHO mentioned a growing pattern of assaults on medical facilities, which has been observed in ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Ukraine. She expressed concern that the idea of a hospital being a secure refuge for those seeking treatment has been overlooked.