Gaza vulnerable to disease outbreak, WHO chief says

There are now only 2,000 hospital beds for 1.5 million people in Gaza, and many hospitals and primary care clinics serving civilians are badly damaged or destroyed, she said.

Gaza vulnerable to disease outbreak, WHO chief says
Israel's offensive in Gaza has left Palestinians vulnerable to disease outbreaks, the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday, warning that severe health risks will persist beyond any ceasefire.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a speech she was deeply concerned about an interruption of immunisations and other life-saving care in the densely populated territory.

There are now only 2,000 hospital beds for 1.5 million people in Gaza, and many hospitals and primary care clinics serving civilians are badly damaged or destroyed, she said.

Some 1,300 Palestinians have died in the assault, which began on Dec. 27 when Israel launched air strikes on Gaza. Israel declared a ceasefire on Saturday ending 22 days of assautl, Hamas also announced it Sunday.

"Right now, we very sadly see ideal conditions for outbreaks of disease," Chan told the WHO's executive board, citing health and sanitary risks from broken sewerage pipes, scarce drinking water, and garbage piling up in the streets.

Cholera is among the deadly diseases that can spread quickly in such conditions.

The emergency needs of the wounded have overwhelmed the capacity of health facilities to treat those with cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as pregnant women who now lack hospital beds to safely deliver babies, Chan said.

"We need to be deeply concerned about the health of Gaza's civilian population," she said.

Chan also appealed for safe corridors to evacuate the severely wounded from Gaza as well as added protection for health workers, hospitals, ambulances and humanitarian aid supplies.

The WHO's 34 member executive board is due to discuss the health situation in Gaza on Tuesday, as part of its preparatory session for the agency's annual World Health Assembly in May.

Reuters
Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2009, 12:27
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