Tedros Appeals to Israel to Allow More Medical Supplies into Gaza Hospitals After Repeated Refusals
Wounded people wait to be treated at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Al Shifa is barely functioning due to lack of staff and supplies due to Israel’s closure of the area.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director General has appealed to Israel to permit it to deliver more medical supplies to Gazan health facilities, particularly in northern Gaza, after Israel refused to allow WHO convoys to travel to the area seven times in the past two weeks.

“We call on Israel to approve requests by WHO and other partners to deliver humanitarian aid,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the global body’s first press conference of the year on Wednesday.

“We have the supplies, the teams and the plans in place. What we don’t have is access. WHO has had to cancel six planned missions to northern Gaza since 26 December, when we had our last mission because our requests were rejected, and assurances of safe passage were not provided. A mission plan for today has also been cancelled,” said Tedros.

He said that the situation in Gaza was “indescribable” with almost 90% of the population of 1.9 million people being displaced.

“People are standing in line for hours for a small amount of water, which may not be clean or bread, which alone is not sufficiently nutritious. Only 15 hospitals are functioning even partially. The lack of clean water and sanitation and overcrowded living conditions are creating the ideal environment for disease to spread,” he added.

“This Sunday marks the 100th day of the conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” Tedros noted. 

“We continue to call for the release of the remaining hostages, and we continue to call on all sides to protect health care in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. Health care must always be protected and respected it cannot be attacked and it cannot be militarised.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Gaza laboratories destroyed

However, the WHO is unable to say what diseases are spreading as there is no way of diagnosing diseases because the facilities of Gaza Central Public Health Laboratory are no longer functional, said Dr Mike Ryan, WHO’s head of health emergencies.

The Central Public Health Laboratory had been in place for the last 40 years, providing “very high quality, environmental and human health sampling systematically across Gaza”, Ryan added.

“We are trying to make arrangements for samples to be taken out of the country and tested, and in other places to bring in mobile labs,” said Ryan. “And these are the trade-offs when you talk about access. Do you replace a truck of food with a truck of lab supplies? Which truck has more priority? Do you bring in water testing equipment or bring in water?”

Declaring WHO’s readiness to assist in Gaza, Ryan hit out at those criticising UN agencies for not doing enough.

“If you continue to destroy infrastructure, if you continue to draw destroy services at this rate, and then you blame the people who are trying to come in and support and help and provide life-saving assistance, who’s to blame here?” Ryan asked.

“Is it the people who are destroying the infrastructure and destroying the livelihoods and destroying the services? Or is it those who are trying to help restore those services under intense bombardment, under the threat of violence?”

Meanwhile, Dr Rik Peeperkorn, WHO’s Jerusalem-based representative for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, added that 16 out of 21 other planned United Nations humanitarian convoys carrying food, fuel and water to areas of northern Gaza that are now under Israeli military control had also been refused entry Gaza in January alone.

Peeperkorn also expressed concern that hostilities and evacuation orders were intensifying in southern Gaza close to Nasser and Gaza European Hospitals in Khan Younis, the only operational referral hospitals there, as well as Al Aqsa Hospital, in Gaza’s central region  – which together serve around two million people.

Image Credits: @alijadallah66 /Al Andalou News Agency, WHO .

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.