On World Health Day, WHO Director General Decries Gaza Hospital Destruction, Blaming Israel
WHO and UN agency officials survey the ruins of Al-Shifa’s Emergency Department during a visit Friday, April 5.

Speaking out on World Health Day, WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decried the destruction of Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital and blamed Israel for the devastation, saying that the “atrocity” of the Hamas attacks on Israeli communities 7 October, did not justify “the horrific ongoing bombardment, seige and health system demolition by Israel in Gaza.”

He made his remarks Sunday, two days after the first WHO visit to Shifa Hospital following the 1 April withdrawal of Israeli forces from the hospital compound after a fierce two-week battle with Hamas forces in and around it.

“It has been six months since the brutal attacks in #Israel by Hamas and other groups, in which 1,200 people were killed, many more injured and hundreds abducted,” Tedros said in a post on X, of the 7 October events that triggered the war. 

@WHO once again condemns this barbaric act of violence and demands the release of remaining hostages. However, this atrocity does not justify the horrific ongoing bombardment, siege and health system demolition by Israel in #Gaza, killing, injuring and starving hundreds of thousands of civilians, including aid workers.

“The deaths and grievous injuries of thousands of children in Gaza will remain a stain on all of humanity…. The denial of basic needs – food, fuel, sanitation, shelter, security and healthcare – is inhumane and intolerable,” said the director general. 

Images of the hospital taken during the UN inter-agency visit, which included WHO, OCHA and other relief organisations, highlighted the degree of damage done, with the hospital’s emergency surgical and maternity departments, in particular,  reduced to unrecognisable shells.

“As WHO marks World Health Day … under the theme ‘My health, my right,’ this basic right is utterly out of reach for the civilians of Gaza,” said a WHO statement shortly after the mission took place, noting that prior to the beginning of the war, Shifa had been the largest and most important referral hospital in Gaza.

“Of the 36 main hospitals that used to serve over 2 million Gazans, only 10 remain somewhat functional, with severe limitations on the types of services they can deliver,” said the WHO statement, noting that “access to health care in Gaza has become totally inadequate, and the ability of WHO and partners to help is constantly disrupted and impeded.

“The proposed military incursion into Rafah can only result in further diminution of access to health care and would have unimaginable health consequences.  The systematic dismantling of health care must end.”

The WHO comments on Shifa triggered a sharp reaction from Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, who accused WHO of “complicity” in its silence over Hamas militarisation of the hospital that Israel says triggered the two-week invasion in which several hundred Hamas gunmen, including a number of senior Hamas leaders, were reportedly killed.

“It’s not just the 133 men, women and children which are held hostage by Hamas, it’s the entire Palestinian civilian population and their infrastructure including hospitals and schools,” said Shahar in an X post.

Hundreds of terrorists in Shifa. Silence. Hostages taken to hospitals on October 7. Silence. Weapons found in incubators. Silence. Rockets founds in wards. Silence. The last 6 months. Silence from @WHO on Hamas, and its abhorrent strategy. Silence is complicity.”

World Health Day, celebrated every year on 7 April, marks the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization in 1948.

Image Credits: OCHA .

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