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WHO leads joint humanitarian mission to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

Jordan Daily – A UN-led humanitarian team, headed by WHO, conducted on Saturday a high-risk mission to assess Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza amid ongoing conflict.

The mission, coordinated with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to secure a safe route, unfolded in a high-risk environment, with intense fighting nearby, according to WHO statement.

Earlier, the IDF had issued evacuation orders for the remaining 2,500 internally displaced people seeking refuge on the hospital grounds. By the team’s arrival, these individuals, alongside mobile patients and hospital staff, had evacuated the facility. The team, constrained by security time limits, spent just one hour inside the hospital, describing it as a “death zone” in a desperate state. Evident signs of shelling and gunfire, coupled with a mass grave at the entrance, underscored the severity of the situation, with more than 80 people reportedly buried there.

Over the last six weeks, critical shortages of clean water, fuel, medicines, and essential aid have rendered Al-Shifa Hospital, once a flagship medical facility in Gaza, virtually non-operational. The team witnessed a lack of effective waste management, leaving corridors and hospital grounds strewn with medical and solid waste, elevating infection risks.

With 25 health workers and 291 patients still in Al-Shifa, the hospital can no longer admit new patients, redirecting the sick and injured to the overstretched Indonesian Hospital. The remaining patients include infants in critical condition, individuals in intensive care without ventilation, and dialysis patients facing compromised access to life-saving treatment.

Given the hospital’s incapacitated state, the team has been tasked with evacuating health workers and patients to alternative facilities. WHO, in collaboration with partners, is urgently planning evacuations over the next 24–72 hours, contingent on safe passage guarantees. However, existing facilities in the south of Gaza are already strained, posing challenges for additional patient inflow from Al-Shifa.

WHO voices deep concern over the plight of patients, health workers, and internally displaced individuals in the few remaining partially functional hospitals facing closure in the north. Immediate action is imperative to restore functionality to Gaza’s hospitals and address the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe. WHO reiterates its plea for an immediate ceasefire, unhindered aid access, and protection of vital infrastructure to alleviate the profound suffering in Gaza.

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