'Imperative' to protect health workers, facilities in Gaza conflict: WHO

Published May 18, 2021, 6:51 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

The protection of health workers and infrastructure is “imperative in all circumstances” the World Health Organization chief said Monday, condemning the escalating violence between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

In his first comments about the conflict that has killed more than 200 people in the past week, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in addition to deep concerns over the security and humanitarian crisis, “the health situation is also highly concerning.” “In the recent escalation of conflict, dozens of incidents involving health workers and health facilities have occurred,” he told reporters.

“Furthermore, Covid-19 testing and vaccination has been severely impacted,” he said, cautioning that “this creates health risks for the world as a whole.” “Protection of health workers and health facilities is an imperative in all circumstances,” he insisted.

“Health workers and infrastructure should always be protected and I call for leaders on all sides to ensure respect for these vital humanitarian laws.” Since May 10, some 200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 59 children, and more than 1,300 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas after the group fired rockets, according to the authorities there.

On Sunday alone, 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.

Israel says 10 people, including one child, have been killed and more than 309 wounded by rocket fire that has been the most intense to ever rain down on the Jewish state.

“In the context of conflict, the health of civilians, their lives need to be protected. And the health care that is provided to them needs to be protected,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said.

“All attacks on health care need to cease immediately, and access for people to appropriate health services needs to be guaranteed,” he said.