WHO issues $7 mn emergency appeal for Gaza, West Bank

By: AFP      Published: 08:38 PM, 20 May, 2021
WHO issues $7 mn emergency appeal for Gaza, West Bank

The UN World Health Organization issued an urgent appeal Thursday for $7 million to pay for a "comprehensive emergency response" in the Palestinian territories amid the conflict with Israel.

Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed 230 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry, in the conflict that started when Islamist group Hamas launched rockets from Gaza at Israel on May 10 in response to a Jewish settler bid to evict Palestinians from their homes in east Jerusalem.

WHO said the funds would "enable a comprehensive emergency response in the next six months" in Gaza as well in the occupied West Bank, which has also seen a surge in protests and violent street clashes.

"In the Gaza Strip, the severity of injuries is straining an already overwhelmed health system," said Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region.

The health system in the crowded enclave "is facing critical shortages of essential medicines and supplies while also battling the Covid-19 pandemic," he said in an online press conference.

Before the latest military escalation, the rate of positive Covid tests in Gaza was among the highest in the world, at 28 percent, and hospitals were already overwhelmed by patients.

On Monday, Israeli strikes hit a clinic, the Gaza health ministry headquarters and the only laboratory in Gaza that was conducting Covid tests. Two doctors were also killed.

The global health body pointed to the "destruction of water and sanitation structures" as well as the displacement of large numbers of people in the coastal territory.

This "presents hygiene risks and limits physical distancing measures for the effective prevention of Covid-19 transmission," it said.

Access to Gaza is tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, and measures imposed by the enclave's Hamas rulers initially slowed the spread of the virus.

But in an impoverished society with poor health infrastructure, containing the novel coronavirus eventually proved impossible.

"Closure of entry and exit points for patients and humanitarian health teams, and severe restrictions on the entry of medical supplies, is exacerbating this public health crisis," Mandhari added.