WHO chief says the enclave’s infrastructure is being destroyed as UN agency warns of soaring healthcare needs.
The United Nations estimates that around 50,000 pregnant women are currently living in Gaza, with more than 180 births taking place every day amid the “decimation” of its healthcare system.
In a statement on Sunday, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said its doctors and midwives “are doing everything possible to provide care for post-natal and high-risk pregnant women at the seven operational UNRWA health centres” – down from 22 before the bloodiest-ever Israeli assault on Gaza began.
Also on Sunday, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) decried the “decimation” of Gaza’s health system while commending health professionals there for continuing to work under extreme circumstances.
“The decimation of the Gaza health system is a tragedy,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“In the face of constant insecurity and inflows of wounded patients, we see doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and more continue striving to save lives,” he added, reiterating calls for an immediate ceasefire.
The decimation of the #Gaza health system is a tragedy.
But in the face of constant insecurity and inflows of wounded patients, we see doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and more continue striving to save lives.@WHO and our health partners will continue working side by side… pic.twitter.com/Lq62KoQI1f
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) December 24, 2023
The agency warned that even as healthcare needs soar, only 38 percent of pre-conflict hospital beds remained available in the Palestinian territory and only 30 percent of original health staff were still working.
At the same time, hospitals, protected under international humanitarian law, have repeatedly been hit by Israeli strikes since the war erupted.
As of December 20, the WHO registered 246 Israeli attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Gaza, including hospitals and ambulances.
Earlier this week, WHO described “unbearable” scenes of largely abandoned patients begging for food and water after its teams visited two badly damaged hospitals in northern Gaza where the war is the bloodiest.
The UN body said only nine out of 36 hospitals were partially functional in the whole of the besieged territory – none in the north – as Israel continued to target medical facilities.
Around 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced to southern Gaza, with tens of thousands crammed in UN schools or shielding against the cold in makeshift tents.
At least 20,424 Palestinians have been killed in the 11-week war – 166 in the past 24 hours, according to officials in Gaza. Tens of thousands are wounded while many bodies remain trapped under rubble.