Between 7,000 and 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza need 'urgent medical evacuation', WHO warns

Between 7,000 and 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza need 'urgent medical evacuation', WHO warns
The increased number comes as emergency medical evacuations came to an abrupt halt in May, following the start of Israel's military campaign in Rafah.
3 min read
05 June, 2024
The increase of patients requiring evacuations for medical purposes coincides with Israel's military operation in Rafah [Getty/file photo]

Between 7,000 and 11,000 Palestinians are in urgent need of medical evacuation, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

The number was confirmed by Hanan Balkhy, the WHO’s regional director in the Eastern Mediterranean, during a meeting in Geneva with the Association of the Accredited Correspondents to the United Nations, Anadolu Agency said.

Balkhy stressed that those requiring medical evacuation, need to undergo treatment in specialised hospitals, and highlighted the "rippling" effect on neighbouring countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria.

"If you're talking about leaving nobody behind, we are already leaving significant numbers behind from Gaza, but also, when there's pressure on already fragile health systems in the neighbouring countries".

She went on to emphasise that "borders need to be open" and for "peace" to be implemented in order to alleviate the dire health situation in Gaza.

Balkhy's comments come after WHO condemned an "abrupt halt" to medical evacuations early last month, when Israel began its deadly military operation in Rafah, raising fears that the cut-off would mean more people would die waiting for treatment. 

The figure of those needing medical evacuations is expected to increase as Israel's war in Gaza persists, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) told The New Arab.

Even with a ceasefire and increased aid, Gazans "will not get the help they need" and medical referrals "must be resumed", the NGO told TNA.

"For severe cases which cannot be treated in Gaza, Israel must resume issuing medial referral permits for medical treatment in the West Bank and East Jerusalem," MSF stressed.

"For all medical referrals, patients and their caregivers must be guaranteed safe, voluntary, and dignified return to Gaza."

The dire healthcare situation in Gaza not only impacts those with injuries, but also those with chronic illnesses, Aseel Baidoun, the Advocacy and Communications Manager in the West Bank for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), told TNA on Wednesday.

Doctors have told the NGO that the situation is "getting worse for patients with heart and kidney diseases" as many are have been forced to flee to Gaza's middle region, following the attacks on Rafah.

MAP stressed that the lives of these patients are "now at severe risk if Israel does not immediately lift its total closure of Gaza, reopen all land crossings, and allow unhindered access for aid and the evacuation of patients who need treatment outside Gaza".

"Israel must also uphold its obligations as the occupying power in Gaza to ensure that the occupied population receives medical supplies."

As of February this year, 44,065 injured Palestinians received treatment in Egypt, according to local media.

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In May, the Iraqi government received dozens of wounded Palestinians from Egypt under the 'Help Gaza' treatment scheme.

Earlier during the war, Turkey said it received a number of cancer patients, treating them across the country's hospitals.

Israel has been pounding the Gaza Strip relentlessly for almost eight months, killing at least 35,586 Palestinians since October 7, mostly women and children.

At least 83,074 Palestinians are currently wounded, the health ministry in Gaza said, while the very few remaining hospitals in Gaza are increasingly overwhelmed with patients, as Israel carries out strikes on a daily basis on the enclave. Out of those wounded, there are thousands of patients requiring complex and sustained medical care that is not available in Gaza.

Three of Gaza’s main hospitals are located in Gaza’s southern governorate and are at grave risk since the start of Israel’s military campaign in Rafah, beginning on May 7.

Only 14 of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are partially functional and are constantly faced with critical shortages, such as fuel, electricity and medical equipment, as well as an overwhelming number of patients.

Images of bloodied, wounded Palestinians sprawled across hospital beds and floors have haunted news websites and social media pages over the months.