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WHO Calls for Unhindered Access to Gaza for Medical Supplies, Staff

Masked militants from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of Hamas, wear camouflage while sitting behind a sniper gun on the back of a truck while marching along the streets of Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip, May 28, 2021.

The World Health Organization is calling for unhindered access to Gaza to provide essential medicine and medical treatment for Palestinians caught up in the 11-day Israel-Hamas conflict.

Violent clashes in Gaza between Israel and the extremist Islamist Hamas group have killed hundreds of people, injured thousands and caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including health facilities.

The World Health Organization says 30 health facilities were damaged, including the destruction of the Hala Al-Shawa primary health care clinic. It says Gaza has just 46% of essential drugs and 33% of essential medical supplies in stock.

U.N. officials who recently visited Gaza warn damage to the territory’s wastewater infrastructure has resulted in large volumes of untreated sewage water being discharged into the sea, creating health hazards and pollution.

WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib says it is critical that border crossings between Israel and Gaza be opened to allow regular access for humanitarian, medical and development supplies into the Palestinian area.

“WHO is calling for unhindered access for humanitarian and essential supplies and staff into Gaza, and the passage of referral patients out of Gaza … as this referral can be really life-saving,” she said. “We have around 600 referrals that were affected due to the closure of the crossing during the escalation.”

Chaib says the 600 people who need to be evacuated for treatment in an Israeli hospital include patients who suffer from chronic illnesses, such as cancer, and those who were injured during the recent escalation of violence.

The WHO is appealing for $7 million to provide essential medical care in Gaza over the next six months. Its priorities include trauma and emergency care, mental health, and psychosocial services.