GENEVA — The World Health Organization warned Monday that health services in Gaza had suffered “catastrophic” damage, with most hospitals no longer functioning.
“We now have 1.7 million people displaced so we have twice or three times the population (in the south of Gaza), using one third of the hospital beds in less than a third of the hospitals available,” Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told a United Nations briefing, speaking from Geneva.
“Even if tomorrow morning, this were to end in terms of a ceasefire, we still have a huge problem on our hands.”
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Ryan said the services in the territory were already unable to provide care for more complex medical cases – including care for most cancer and kidney dialysis patients – and would likely be overwhelmed by some 5,500 births expected in the next month.
Plans by the Israeli military to push further south, he said, would worsen health conditions even further.
“The hospital situation – the primary health care system situation – in Gaza is catastrophic and it is the worst you can imagine (in the) north,” Ryan said.
Egypt’s state-run media say babies evacuated from Gaza’s embattled Shifa hospital have arrived in Egypt.
The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service said it was transporting 28 premature babies from a hospital in southern Gaza to another across the border in Egypt on Monday. Egypt’s Al-Qahera satellite channel broadcast images of the babies inside Egyptian ambulances, without specifying how many had arrived.
Doctors and medical assistants wearing white lab coats and blue protective gowns placed the tiny newborns in incubators on top of trolleys next to the Gaza-Egypt crossing point.
On Sunday, the World Health Organization said 31 premature babies in “extremely critical condition” had been evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital and would be transferred to Egypt for specialized care. There was no immediate explanation of the differing numbers.
More than 250 patients with severely infected wounds or other urgent conditions remain stranded at Shifa Hospital days after Israeli forces entered the compound.
Four other babies died in the two days before the evacuation on Sunday, according to Mohamed Zaqout, the director of Gaza hospitals.