“About 160 children are killed every day; that’s one every 10 minutes,” said Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), echoing the concerns of the United Nations Children’s Fund about the serious additional threat of a massive epidemic in the enclave.
“If young people continue to have restricted access to water and sanitation in Gaza, we will see a tragic but entirely avoidable increase in the number of children dying,” said the spokesperson for UNICEF’s James Elder told reporters in Geneva, who noted that more than 5,350 Palestinian children had died. would have been killed, according to the health authorities of the enclave.
“The number of child deaths is sickening,” Elder said. “Grief is setting in in Gaza. So this is a stark warning: without enough fuel, without enough water, children’s living conditions will collapse.”
The UNICEF spokesperson added that at least 30 Israeli children are still held hostage “somewhere in this hellish landscape”, before calling for their immediate release, to spare them “their fear (and) the torment” endured by their families.
Hospital evacuation planned
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the WHO’s Lindmeier explained that “every 10 minutes, two children are injured”, while young people and their families caught up in the conflict die “in terrifying circumstances”.
According to the United Nations health agency, around 180 babies are born every day in this war-devastated enclave. More than 20 of them need specialized care, as do the infants at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, where 31 premature and low birth weight babies in intensive care were evacuated over the weekend . The initial number of infants was 33, but two died “because of the lack of care available to them,” Lindmeier said.
Highlighting the dire situation across the Gaza Strip where “less than half” of the enclave’s hospitals and clinics are now operating “in any capacity”, the WHO official said plans were continuing to evacuate the remaining 200 patients and 50 health workers from Al-Shifa Hospital. , as a last desperate resort.
Facing “certain death”
“When these people – the doctors, the nurses, the patients – ask to be evacuated, it’s really the last resort,” he said, adding that it meant “the situation on the ground has become so dire as the only other alternative. faces what they believe to be certain death.”
The WHO spokesperson explained that such evacuations were extremely complicated and dangerous, requiring coordination with the Israeli Defense Forces and with Hamas “to reach a safer location inside Gaza.”
Evacuation teams will “need time, preparation, specialized equipment and safe passage,” Lindmeier said.
Almost no water, fuel, food
According to the United Nations health agency, Gaza is now home to thousands of injured and seriously ill people. There has been a sharp increase in illnesses such as diarrhea and respiratory infections, as well as “almost no water, fuel, food, electricity or medical supplies.”
Some 72,000 cases of upper respiratory infections have been reported in shelters for internally displaced people, including almost 49,000 cases of diarrhea, more than half of them among children under five years old. This compares to a pre-war monthly average of 2,000 cases in 2021 and 2022.