Gaza: WHO chief highlights health risks of latest evacuation orders

Gaza: WHO chief highlights health risks of latest evacuation orders

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists the Al-Ahli and Patient Friendly Hospitals in northern Gaza are the latest facilities unable to function due to fighting nearby.

He said patients from Al-Ahli have been evacuated to the Indonesian Hospital which is now operating at three times its capacity.

Thousands awaiting evacuation

Over 10,000 patients still need medical evacuation for treatment that cannot be provided in Gaza,” he said, stressing that “multiple evacuation corridors are needed urgently to the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan.”

Tedros noted that almost the entire population of Gaza is facing high levels of acute food insecurity, with nearly one in four at risk of starvation. 

Meanwhile, very few supplies are entering the enclave, and only five WHO trucks were allowed in last week.

Aid stuck at the border

Tedros said more than 34 trucks are waiting at the El Arish crossing with Egypt, 850 pallets of supplies are awaiting collection, and a further 40 trucks are standing at Ismailiya, also in Egypt.

He called for restrictions on supplies entering Gaza to be lifted immediately, saying “the people of Gaza who have nothing to do with this conflict must not be the ones who pay the price for it.”

People survey the damage after a school was bombarded in central Gaza.

‘Perfect breeding ground for diseases’

The WHO Director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, Dr. Hanan Balkhy, also briefed reporters on her 11-day visit to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing the situation in Gaza as “very concerning on both a human and humanitarian level.”

Lack of fuel is compromising all health and humanitarian operations there, she said, with running sewage and garbage in the demolished streets and the smell of fermented waste permeating the air.

“This situation is providing the perfect breeding ground for diseases to spread, leading to an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections among many others,” she said.

Breakdown in law and order

Ongoing violence and the breakdown of law and order are devastating an already crippled city and creating an extremely high-risk environment – not just for aid workers, but for everyone in Gaza,” she added.

The breakdown of law and order also makes it nearly impossible to manage gender-based violence, exposing displaced Palestinians to additional life- threatening risks.

Although WHO has expanded its medical supply chain for Gaza to respond to the increasing hostilities and soaring needs, much of this aid remains “stuck on the wrong side of the borders”, she said, echoing Tedros.

“And even when supplies do enter the breakdown – again, I repeat – of law and order makes it challenging for our teams to deliver them to hospitals that urgently need them,” she added.

Open the borders

Dr. Balkhy also spoke about her visit to the IMC Field Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, which has been relocated twice and tripled its capacity over the past few months. 

She met a severely malnourished seven-year-old girl who had been evacuated from the north three months ago and is among the 10,000 patients awaiting further evacuation outside Gaza so they can receive specialized care for conditions such as trauma injuries and chronic diseases.

While in the region, the senior WHO official also held meetings with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territories, Muhannad Hadi, and UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland, and they all agreed on the need to address the suffering in Gaza.

We need Member States to swiftly fulfill their global diplomacy mandate and expedite an immediate truce,” she said.

“We need all borders, including Rafah border, to open and allow fuel, medical supplies and other essential humanitarian aid to flow in, and we need those who require medical care to be able to exit.”

West Bank attacks continue

Dr. Balkhy also travelled to the West Bank and witnessed the rapidly worsening health situation there.

She visited the Jenin General Hospital and the clinic run by UN Palestine refugee agency UNRWA, and learned about health workers who were killed or injured in repeated attacks.  She also saw extensive damage to infrastructure and medical equipment.

In the face of damaged roads and access restrictions, WHO and partners, including the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, have set up mobile medical services to reach people at the point of injury, she said.

The UN agency has also supported mass casualty management training and response planning at the Jenin General Hospital and six other hospitals in the West Bank. 

Our goal is seamless and effective trauma care across all levels, based on lessons from Gaza,” she said.

Support regional health systems

Dr. Balkhy also stressed the need to strengthen the already fragile health systems in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

She voiced extreme concern over the escalation of violence along the border between Lebanon and Israel, which has resulted in increased deaths and injuries amongst civilians and health workers, as well as displacement and damage to health infrastructure.

In our region entire generations have grown up knowing nothing but conflict and deprivation,” she said. “Addressing the root political causes of these emergencies is not just a humanitarian necessity, but a strategic investment in regional stability and security.” 

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