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Gaza’s battered health system needs urgent help: WHO-led report

Urgent work is needed to rehabilitate Gaza’s damaged health system to prevent further loss of life after the recent Israeli offensive

Published: Updated:

The WHO is working closely with the Palestinian Health Ministry to provide patients in Gaza with access to high-quality health care but the initiative will require unimpeded access of supplies to the Strip, the organization’s regional director said Sunday.

Dr. Ala Alwan, commenting on a WHO-led assessment of health needs and services in Gaza that was released by the organization on Sunday, said the process would require unimpeded access of medicines, essential supplies, medical equipment and reconstruction material to the Strip.

Urgent work is needed to rehabilitate Gaza’s damaged health system to prevent further loss of life after the recent Israeli offensive on the Strip, according to the assessment.

During the conflict over half of the hospitals and health centers were damaged or destroyed with an urgent need to ensure sufficient fuel for generators at health facilities.

More than 11,000 people were wounded, putting strain on the remaining facilities with an influx of patients requiring medical assistance.

The assessment found critical shortages of essential medicines and medical supplies. It also cited outdated or damaged medical equipment in need of repair.

The current provisions for health workers are also lacking due to unpaid wages and the need for targeted training of staff members.

Beyond those wounded in the violence, the assessment found that during and after the conflict access to health services was affected for people with chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes. The assessment also noted a shortage of drugs and an increase in the demand for referrals outside the Gaza Strip for patients unable to receive adequate services in the area.

The assessment also warned of a long-term increase in the demand for health services by more than 1,000 patients who sustained long-term or permanent health conditions due to the conflict as well as the anticipated increase in the need for services for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

The WHO estimates that 20 percent of the population in emergency-affected areas will require some form of mental health intervention.

“The health system in Gaza was already on the brink of collapse after decades of occupation and years of blockade and conflict,” Alwan, the WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean, said.

“We need sustained interventions to repair and rehabilitate the damage done during the conflict and to strengthen the health system for the future. Without this, more unnecessary loss of life will inevitably occur.”

The WHO is supporting the following health-related activities in the Gaza Strip: repair and rehabilitation of 67 damaged hospitals and primary health care centers; provision of quality essential public health services including for mental health; provision of essential medications, especially for chronic illnesses; rehabilitation of the disease early warning system; coordination of the health sector and management of health information; facilitation of 2,000 referral patients per month for specialized medical treatment outside Gaza.