Gaza health system ‘on its knees’: WHO chief

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The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm over the health system in Gaza, warning the situation will worsen as the war rages on into the winter months.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated in remarks Sunday that he condemned the deadly attacks by militant group Hamas on Israel more than two months ago, but he emphasized the need for a cease-fire due to the worsening health conditions in Gaza.

“The risk is expected to worsen with the deteriorating situation and approaching winter conditions,” Ghebreyesus said in remarks to the special session of the WHO executive board. “Gaza’s health system is on its knees and collapsing.”

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has reported that more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting since Oct. 7. In addition, about 1.9 million Palestinians have been displaced within Gaza as they attempted to seek refuge from the Israeli attacks.

Tedros warned that “nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza” amid the ongoing fighting in the territory. He said health needs in Gaza have “increased dramatically,” and that the health system “has been reduced to one-third of what it was.”

“As more and more people move to a smaller and smaller area, overcrowding, combined with the lack of adequate food, water, shelter and sanitation, are creating the ideal conditions for disease to spread,” he said.

The WHO executive board adopted a resolution during its special session Sunday to call for “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel.” It also called on “all parties” in the war to abide by international law, especially in connection to protecting civilians during the conflict.

In his closing remarks, Tedros said the resolution was just the start of solving the health crisis in Gaza.

“Without a cease-fire, there is no peace,” he said. “And without peace, there is no health. I urge all Member States, especially those with the most influence, to work with urgency to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible.”

The resolution came as Israeli forces battled with militants across Gaza on Sunday, including in southern Gaza where thousands of civilians had already fled to escape the fighting in previous days.

Other aid organizations have also issued warnings on the humanitarian crisis in the territory, with the United Nations World Food finding that 97 percent of households in northern Gaza and 83 percent in southern Gaza have inadequate food consumption. Save the Children, a global humanitarian aid organization, also warned over the weekend that the lack of food in Gaza will have a “deadly impact” on children.

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