In a recent development, the World Health Organization (WHO) had to rapidly relocate supplies from its medical warehouse in southern Gaza. This action was prompted by an Israeli military warning indicating that imminent ground operations would obstruct access. The WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has publicly called on Israel to retract the order, emphasizing the need for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and humanitarian facilities.
Denial from the Israeli Defense Ministry
In a twist to the narrative, the Israeli Defense Ministry's unit, COGAT, countered the WHO's account. They categorically denied issuing any directive for the WHO to evacuate warehouses and claimed to have clarified this with UN representatives. Despite this, Shannon Barkley from WHO's team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories reported that part of the evacuation to a new facility was successfully completed.
Concerns over Access to Healthcare
Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, issued a stark warning. He highlighted that intensified Israeli ground operations, particularly in Khan Younis, could potentially impede thousands from accessing essential healthcare. Amidst the conflict, WHO officials have expressed grave concern about the possible widespread outbreak of diseases given Gaza's lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
Rise of Diseases in Gaza
Diseases such as acute respiratory infections, scabies, jaundice, and bloody diarrhea are reportedly on the rise in Gaza. Additionally, Dr. Richard Brennan from WHO's Eastern Mediterranean office pointed out the risk of hepatitis E, particularly to pregnant women, due to contaminated water. Brennan emphasized that the health sector in Gaza has suffered a massive deterioration, with only 18 hospitals operational compared to 36 before the war, functioning well below capacity which hinders their ability to meet increasing healthcare demands.