Source: United Nations (Video News)
Press conference by Mr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Emergencies Programme (briefing virtually from Geneva) and Mr. Rob Holden, WHO Senior Emergency Officer (briefing from Gaza). They addressed the situation of the health sector in Gaza, including the recent evacuation of patients from Al-Shifa Hospital.
The World Health Organization (WHO) senior official Michael Ryan told reporters, “we are seeing a complete collapse of the higher-level infrastructure of the Gaza health system,” adding that it is very hard to maintain good data of the injured and deaths in a situation where health systems are collapsing.
Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health Emergencies Program and Rob Holden, WHO Senior Emergency Officer today (20 Nov) briefed reporters on the situation of the health sector in Gaza, including the recent evacuation of patients from Al-Shifa Hospital.
Speaking via video link from Geneva, Ryan said, “We’ve had great difficulty in updating the detailed disaggregated numbers that we’ve been providing to you all over the last number of weeks. The estimates for fatalities and deaths at this point is very unclear. But it continues to rise. There is no question of that.”
He continued, “The last verified numbers we had were last Friday, which was just over 11,000 fatalities, but it has certainly risen and since then, the Ministry of Health in Gaza have reported obviously, much higher numbers with that. And we will continue to try and get back to having more detailed disaggregated data.”
The Senior WHO official highlighted that the scale of injuries, the need for supplies, the inability to move around within the strip, and the inability to do that safely has placed huge strains on all of the UN community and NGO community to serve the people on the ground.
He continued, “Beyond the risks of direct wounds and injuries which are very severe, we’re seeing large numbers of people packed into refuges, packed into UNRWA schools, packed in to various other kinds of centers. This is creating a concentration of people which is driving epidemic risks and the rains over the last 24 hours have really added to that.”
Ryan added, “There really has been heavy rain. It has flooded a lot of the makeshift camps, and it is generating all kinds of risks. And it’s not just the risks of diarrheal disease, the sudden drop in temperature is going to create a problem with pneumonia in children, with the stress that those kids are under, the nutritional status that those children have, make it a recipe for epidemics.”
The WHO official reiterated, “This is an absolute recipe for large scale epidemics amongst this population. And that as a public health risk right now will begin to approach the same level as the injury crisis that we have on the crisis and the hospitals.”
Ryan also said, “Our biggest fear at the moment is also a shift or another movement of patients.”
He explained, “1.7 million people have already been displaced. There is a real risk that many of them will be displaced again, and again the further concentration of people in ever smaller areas pushing out to the West Coast is only increasing and increasing and increasing the risks to those populations – be it from injury, but more importantly, be it from the public health risks.”
“We really do need to take a step back here, understand the risks that are being taken and hopefully have a ceasefire, hopefully have all of the hostages released, and hopefully get to a position where we will have unfettered access with our UN partners and NGO partners to support all people affected in this crisis,” the WHO official added.
“There’s over thousands of patients on cancer therapy. We have thousands of diabetics, thousands of people with severe hypotension – the normal things of life. We have 20,000 people in need of urgent psychiatric care, the only psychiatric hospital has been closed as well,” Ryan conclude.
A second WHO-led joint UN mission, working in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, earlier Sunday evacuated 31 babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza to a hospital in southern Gaza.
Briefing from Rafah, Rob Holden, WHO Senior Emergency Officer reiterated that the focus was how to move 31 critically ill babies, “while essentially under fire in six ambulances through a war zone, keep them alive and hand them over to the specialist care that they’re required in the south of the country”
He continued, “We didn’t go there to assess what the Israelis had done or hadn’t done in terms of providing support to the hospital. That’s what we were focusing on – our job is to get in and get out safely and to bring those babies alive and to give them the best chance of survival once we got them out and that’s what we did.”