The Gaza Health Cluster Bulletin provides an overview of the health sector response to the Gaza crisis.
- Israel, Hamas issued respective cease-fires
- Large amounts of medical supplies threaten to overwhelm logistics systems
- Hospitals and primary health care centres continue to function despite damage
- 16 health facilities damaged
- Vaccine programmes resuming
- Detailed assessment of health needs to be conducted
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH)(1), at least 1300 people were killed and around 5300 injured during Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009. Health services were severely affected, with at least 16 health facilities damaged and 16 ambulances either damaged or destroyed. Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire with effect from 18 January, while Hamas declared a separate one-week conditional cease-fire.
During the crisis, Gaza health services and staff provided round-the-clock care in extremely difficult conditions. Health personnel were themselves among the casualties, with 13 killed and 22 injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that up to 100 000 people have been displaced, with many staying at emergency shelters established by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). As of 14 January, approximately 500 000 people had no access to running water, and the rest of the population had access for only a few hours each week.
Various organizations have begun rapid needs assessments for the health sector. WHO, as Health Cluster coordinator, asks that health assessments be coordinated as much as possible through WHO in order to maximize efforts and avoid duplication.
Priority needs and gaps include:
- Ensuring appropriate treatment and/or referral of injured and chronically ill patients.
Coordination of supplies and staff:
- The large volumes of medical supplies entering Gaza are threatening to overwhelm the Central Drug Store, which has been inundated with supplies at a time when it is already operating at reduced capacity. Donors are asked to contact the Ministry of Health for information on the specific supplies that are needed.
- Similarly, health professionals willing to volunteer their services in Gaza are asked to contact the MoH and WHO to ensure appropriate specialists are identified and deployed.
- All staff assigned from primary health care centres (PHCCs) to hospitals will need to be redeployed to their original place of work in order to ensure the full resumption of primary health care services.
- Supplies, distribution channels and end-points need to be mapped to ensure that stocks are delivered where they are needed. Additional warehouse space is needed (the MoH and other organizations have already rented extra warehouses).
- An assessment of health needs is crucial to ensure an appropriate health response can be planned and implemented. Assessments carried out by different agencies must be coordinated to avoid duplication and ensure the comparability and consistency of data collected in different sites.
- The MoH in Gaza has initiated its own needs assessment and has asked each hospital to assess damages.
- Detailed assessments will support resource mobilization efforts and health sector coordination.
- WHO's Gaza office began a rapid needs assessment on 19 January. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is also assessing health facilities to identify needs and gaps.
- Response teams must be assigned to Gaza (in close consultation with the MoH) as soon as conditions on the ground permit, in order to stabilize the health situation and strengthen capacity in health facilities.
For more information, see http://www.who.int/hac/crises/international/wbgs/en/index.html
(1) Figures provided on 18 January 2009. WHO has not been able to independently verify these figures.
(2) Contact details for the ERO are tel: 02 241 4013, telefax: 02 241 4014, mob: 059 8919738; email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.