The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed grave concerns over the growing need for medications in Gaza, indicating that the demand is "doubling in a worrying and frightening manner." This alarming situation results from an increase in injuries among the healthy population, brought about by the destruction of infrastructure and an acute shortage of clean drinking water.
Challenges in Delivering Aid to Gaza
Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, shed light on the challenges in delivering sufficient aid to Gaza, despite an extension of a ceasefire. He reported that Israeli conditions and procedures obstruct the entry of adequate aid, resulting in a backlog of medical supplies at the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing. Before the conflict, approximately 500 trucks entered daily with various forms of aid; however, since the start of the conflict, only about 1600 trucks have made it through, with roughly 400 of these carrying medical supplies and medications.
The need for medications is growing alarmingly with the increase in casualties from attacks and the spread of illnesses due to damaged infrastructure and lack of clean water.
The Worsening Health Crisis
Al-Mandhari emphasized the urgent requirement not only for medications but also for medical supplies such as laboratory samples, surgical tools, ambulance equipment, fluids, and chronic disease medications like those for blood pressure, diabetes, and heart conditions. Almost all of WHO's medical supply stock in Gaza has been depleted. He described the situation in Gaza as disastrous, with hundreds of thousands suffering from hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases, and asthma.
The initial concern at the start of the conflict on October 7 was for hospital patients, but now there is a real worry for the remaining healthy population. Over two million displaced people are without shelter, nearly one million living in UNRWA institutions lack basic necessities, and respiratory diseases, diarrhea, and skin conditions like scabies are spreading rapidly.
Need for Immediate Nutritional Interventions
There's also a severe need for immediate nutritional interventions for about half a million pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children. Before the war, 7,000 children under five suffered from wasting, and this number has risen by 27% to 10,000. Additionally, about 450,000 people in Gaza suffer from mental health issues, and the only specialized hospital for their treatment has ceased operations.
Fragile Healthcare System in Gaza
The healthcare system in Gaza is fragile, with only 9 out of 36 hospitals partially operational, often offering just basic emergency services. The medical workforce has decreased to 30%, exacerbating the situation. Fuel shortages are hampering medical services, with Gaza's largest medical complex, Al-Shifa Hospital, in dire need of daily fuel supplies.
Al-Mandhari called for the immediate and unconditional entry of all aid into Gaza, protection for health institutions, and safety for healthcare workers to prevent a certain catastrophe. The Palestinian Health Minister Mai Al-Kaila recently warned of the catastrophic health and epidemic situation in Gaza, especially in shelters, hospitals, refugee camps, and gatherings of displaced people, which lack basic life necessities.