UN agency heads horrified by fatalities in Gaza

UN agency heads horrified by fatalities in Gaza
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Escalating violence cripples healthcare in Gaza as children and patients die amidst fuel shortages and hospital shutdowns.

The regional directors of the United Nations agencies responsible for health and children's welfare have expressed their horror at recent reports emerging from the Gaza Strip, where ongoing hostilities have resulted in the deaths of multiple individuals, including children, within medical facilities. The situation has deteriorated to the point where the second largest hospital, Al-Quds, has been rendered virtually inoperative due to crippling fuel shortages, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

The World Health Organization's Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, took to social media platform X to disclose the critical conditions at Al Shifa, Gaza's largest hospital. Tedros described a dire scenario with the medical facility lacking electricity and water for three days, severely hindering essential care. He noted that the "constant gunfire and bombings" have led to a significant rise in patient deaths, rendering the hospital non-functional.

Further exacerbating the crisis, the Israeli military's presence around Al Shifa has heightened fears for the safety of both staff and patients. Despite the Israeli military's assertions that they are not deliberately targeting hospitals and are combating militants using such facilities as shields, the surrounding violence has made access to several hospitals in northern Gaza perilously unsafe.

UNFPA's Laila Baker, UNICEF Regional Director Adele Khodr, and WHO's Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari released a joint statement expressing concern for premature and newborn babies who are dying due to the power and oxygen cut-offs at Al-Shifa Hospital. They emphasized the reported lack of fuel, water, and basic medical supplies across various hospitals, placing numerous patients in immediate danger.

The WHO has documented at least 137 attacks on healthcare in Gaza over 36 days, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including healthcare workers among the casualties. The regional directors stressed that such attacks on medical facilities and civilians are grave violations of international law and cannot be tolerated.

As more than half of Gaza's hospitals have shut down, those that remain operational face extreme pressure. The shortages of essential supplies threaten the patients and the thousands of displaced persons taking refuge within these facilities.

The regional directors and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Lynn Hastings, have called for decisive international action to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, prevent further loss of life, and save what remains of Gaza's healthcare system. They urge for unimpeded access to fuel, medical supplies, and water and for the violence to end immediately. Hastings warned that the lack of fuel threatens hospital operations and critical water infrastructure, potentially leading to public health crises and a breakdown in humanitarian operations.

*Photo: UN