WHO evacuates 32 patients from Gaza hospital amidst safety concerns

07:54 PM, 21 Feb, 2024
WHO evacuates 32 patients from Gaza hospital amidst safety concerns

GENEVA: Leading two urgent operations in Southern Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) helped evacuate 32 critically ill patients, including two children, from the embattled Nasser Medical Complex amidst ongoing Israeli hostilities and severe restrictions in the region.

In close collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), WHO coordinated the transfer while also providing vital medical supplies and food to the remaining patients and staff, who are isolated from external aid.

Four PRCS ambulances facilitated the safe transport of patients to various medical facilities, including the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza's central area, and the International Medical Corps field hospitals in Rafah.

The decision to evacuate patients followed a military raid on Nasser Medical Complex on Feb 14 , rendering the facility non-functional after a prolonged siege. Amid active conflict near the aid convoy, patients, including those with complex medical needs such as paralysis and orthopedic injuries, were moved under challenging conditions, with road obstacles posing additional risks.

Nasser Hospital's dire situation, lacking electricity, running water, and proper waste management, raised concerns for the well-being of remaining patients and staff. WHO staff described the devastation surrounding the hospital as 'indescribable,' with infrastructure damage hindering essential medical care.

Approximately 130 patients, along with medical personnel, are still trapped within the facility, prompting WHO to voice fears over their safety and stressing the urgent need to safeguard access to medical care amidst escalating violence.

Before the evacuations, WHO faced obstacles in accessing the hospital for medical assessments, resulting in fatal delays. Despite delivering essential supplies on Feb 17, including fuel and limited food and water, WHO's efforts to evaluate the hospital's condition were obstructed, signaling a critical humanitarian crisis.

The ongoing degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex severely undermines Gaza's already strained health infrastructure, amplifying the need for all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of medical facilities, personnel, and civilians.

WHO reiterates its call for sustained access to healthcare facilities and urges all parties to respect the principles of humanitarian law to avoid further harm and preserve life-saving services in conflict-hit regions.