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WHO Appeals for Urgent Protection of Gaza’s Health System Amid Escalating Hostilities

As the conflict in Gaza intensifies once again, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a dire appeal for the protection of the health system from further attacks and degradation of its capacity. The organization expresses grave concern over the resumption of hostilities, including heavy bombardment in Gaza, emphasizing the urgent need for Israel to adhere to the laws of war and safeguard civilians and critical infrastructure, especially hospitals.

The current situation in southern Gaza is particularly alarming, as immediate evacuation orders force civilians into smaller areas. With dwindling access to essential supplies and concerns for the safety of health workers during movements, WHO and its partners are finding it increasingly challenging to provide support.

The escalating military ground operations in southern Gaza, notably in Khan Younis, raise fears of cutting off thousands of people from essential healthcare. This includes access to Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital, the main healthcare facilities in the region, amid a growing number of wounded and sick individuals.

With approximately 1.9 million people—nearly 80% of Gaza’s population—estimated to be internally displaced, recent evacuation orders cover significant portions of Khan Younis and surrounding areas. The number of functioning hospitals has dramatically decreased from 36 to 18 in less than 60 days, severely straining the already overwhelmed health system.

During a recent visit to Nasser Medical Complex, the WHO team described the situation as catastrophic, with overcrowded facilities, shortages of health workers, and an overwhelmed emergency ward. Disease surveillance systems are hampered, and there are reports of increases in infectious diseases, including acute respiratory infections, scabies, jaundice, diarrhoea, and bloody diarrhoea.

WHO recorded an alarming 203 attacks on healthcare facilities from October 7 to November 28, including hospitals, ambulances, and medical supplies, while also highlighting the detention of healthcare workers. The organization deems these attacks unacceptable and emphasizes the urgent need for a sustained ceasefire to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

On December 3 alone, reports indicate 349 people killed and 750 injured. The bed occupancy rate at operational hospitals stands at 171%, with intensive care units reaching an occupancy rate of 221%. The Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital are currently three times beyond their intended capacities, with thousands seeking shelter.

The WHO underscores the critical importance of protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, calling for immediate measures to halt the escalating crisis in Gaza.

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