SANTA MONICA, California — The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Thursday that healthcare services in Gaza are near failing. The conflict between Israel and Hamas has rapidly escalated since July 8. Nearly 100 people have been killed and 500 wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.
Gaza’s hospitals are running dangerously low on supply levels of medical supplies and fuel for hospital generators. At least four health centers and a water desalinization center have also been damaged in the attacks.
Additional factors are also exacerbating the hospital crises. The Palestinian Ministry of Health has only 10 days worth of fuel reserves set aside for hospitals. Approximately half of government health workers have received a lower salary than agreed upon or no salary at all in recent months and some can no longer afford to come in for work. Hospitals have postponed all elective surgeries until next year to conserve resources, meaning only critical life-or-death operations are being performed; even these surgeries are short-staffed and under-supplied.
The ongoing violence, and Palestine’s inability to effectively cope with Israel defending itself from the terrorist attacks, raises concern about the ability of its government and health services. The WHO is requesting local and international donors to contribute up to $60 million. More than half of the desired amount will be used for essential healthcare supplies for Palestine, and the remaining portion will repay a debt owed to East Jerusalem hospitals.
The WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Ala Alwan said, “We faced a similar situation in 2008-2009 and in 2012 in the Gaza Strip when stocks were low and medicines were urgently needed. Today, the West Bank is also affected by shortfalls in budget and medical supplies. The response and preparedness of the health sector is at a very low level, and we are concerned about a possible collapse of health services.”
Meanwhile, international pressure for a ceasefire—or, at the very least a reduction in violence—is increasing for both Israel and Hamas. United States President Barack Obama announced that Washington is prepared to help negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and the terrorist organization. Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressing concern over civilian casualties, has also urged Israel to halt bloodshed immediately. United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon expressed a similar sentiment for the cessation of hostilities at an emergency session for the UN Security Council.
Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Libi Vice said that the organization is taking several precautions to protect Palestinian civilians: “This is not an operation in any capacity against the people of Gaza. This is an operation against Hamas, against an organization that purposefully and specifically uses the civilian population of Gaza as a human shield.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross has called for the fighting forces to spare the lives of civilians and medical workers, yet the outcome remains uncertain.
– Mari LeGagnoux