On 7 July 2014, a humanitarian emergency was declared in the Gaza Strip, following an escalation in hostilities involving intense Israeli aerial, tank and navy bombardment and Palestinian rocket firing into Israel. The conflict has resulted in almost 1900 persons killed (including more than 400 children) and 10,000 injured, widespread destruction of buildings and essential infrastructure like the Gaza power plant, and the displacement of 300,000 persons from their homes and sheltering in UNRWA schools. Three ambulance workers were killed evacuating patients in Rafah.
Large numbers of injured persons have overwhelmed the hospitals that remain functional, with a 50% increase in major surgical procedures. The Gaza health system is facing shortages of staff, medicines, supplies, fuel, electricity and water. Access to emergency health services is at risk. Half of the 75 Ministry of Health (MoH) and UNRWA primary health care facilities are closed due to damage or to insecurity. Patients with chronic diseases have been left without medication, while routine antenatal care and immunization programs have been interrupted.
At secondary health care level, all elective surgical procedures have been stopped, to enable the MoH to conserve medicines and supplies for coping with the increased number of emergency surgeries for casualties. Specialist surgeons are lacking adequate treatment for the many complicated trauma cases.
Health management and coordination structures are disrupted. With sealed borders and the two exits being controlled by Egypt and Israel only few medical cases have been able to evacuated during the crisis and complicated procedures for the entry of medical goods and medical teams.
The overcrowded shelters for the 300,000 displaced persons lack adequate water and sanitation. WHO and UNRWA are monitoring the situation to prevent and control for any outbreak of endemic communicable disease. The general population is also at risk, since most households are dependent on water and sanitation services supplied by electricity, which reaches only 20% of needs following the destruction of supply lines.
Heath Cluster and WHO Interventions
WHO is procuring medical supplies worth US$1.9 million thanks to donations from Switzerland, Norway and Italy. The supplies are being delivered to the MoH Central Drug Store in Gaza, along with in-kind donations from Bahrain and the Jordanian army for distribution mainly to MoH hospitals. Turkey has also pledged support.
WHO is currently leading the rapid assessment for the health sector to examine the extent of the damages to the structure and functionality of services, in coordination with the UN inter-agency assessment.
WHO coordinates with the Ministry of Health and health partners for the most critical gaps to be filled. On a daily basis, WHO in Gaza monitors needs in hospitals and clinics, and assesses drug and supplies stocks and damages to health facilities. The procurement and delivery of medical supplies and access for medical teams to Gaza is being facilitated by WHO.
WHO issues a situation report on Gaza twice a week, provides daily updates to OCHA and leads on health information collection and sharing in Gaza. The Ministry of Health, with support from two WHO staff is running an emergency operation in Ramallah, to monitor, report and coordinate on the health situation in Gaza.