Wounds from Palestinian conflict risk ‘overwhelming’ health facilities: WHO


  • Aid agencies ask for access, supplies
  • 30 Gaza health facilities damaged by violence
  • ICRC says it will take years to recover

GENEVA, May 21 (Reuters) – UN agencies on Friday appealed for emergency medical supplies and access to Gaza, saying thousands of injured Palestinians risked “overwhelming” some health facilities after 11 days of violence.

A truce came on Friday after the most intense fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants, though aid officials have warned Gaza will take years to recover from the latest outbreak, the fourth conflict since 2008. read more

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a UN virtual briefing focused on the impact of violence in the Palestinian territories that some 8,538 more injured were reported in addition of 257 deaths, saying they risked “overwhelming health facilities”.

She also called for immediate access to supplies and health personnel in the Gaza Strip, where nearly half of essential medicines have run out, and for the establishment of humanitarian corridors. “The real challenges are the closures. We need the entry of medical supplies,” she said in reference to the border crossings.

On Gaza, which was heavily bombed by Israel during the conflict, Harris said 30 health facilities were damaged and road damage was obstructing ambulance access. Almost all of the hospitals were only partially operational and two were not functioning at all.

Israel, whose cities have been hit by Hamas rocket attacks in recent days, says its airstrikes hit legitimate military targets and that it sought to avoid civilian casualties. The WHO did not give details of the Israeli injuries or deaths.

Matthias Schmale, director of the United Nations agency for Gaza operations for Palestinian refugees, said he was concerned about an increase in COVID-19 cases after Gazans gathered to take to bomb shelter.

Testing has been halted following damage to its main lab, the WHO said, and there is a “high risk” of infections.

The regional director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Fabrizio Carboni, echoed the call for urgent medical supplies and also expressed concerns over hundreds of unexploded bombs, as two found in a school.

“It will take years to rebuild and even more to rebuild fractured lives,” Carboni said at the briefing.

Reporting by Emma Farge, editing by William Maclean

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