Gaza healthcare analysis - WHO 29 May 2024
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Edited News | WHO

Gaza healthcare analysis - WHO 29 May 2024

Gaza’s healthcare professionals must be focus of enclave’s reconstruction, insists WHO top official

Nearly eight months of war in Gaza have devastated the enclave’s hospitals and clinics but many skilled medical professionals are still there and committed to being part of its future, a senior UN World Health Organization (WHO) official told UN News.

“There's a lot of very capable health professionals in Gaza, and they should be very much part - they should actually be the focus - of any reconstruction and any rehabilitation process,” said Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, WHO Representative in Palestine.

“A lot of them are volunteers, most of them are not receiving any salary. So, we have to also think about the whole human resource approach to make sure we get Palestinian health workers back in place and indeed working towards a Palestinian solution.”

In a wide-ranging interview with UN News on Wednesday, the veteran humanitarian also condemned last Sunday’s Israeli airstrike on a camp for forcibly displaced people in Tal al-Sultan that left dozens dead.

Dr. Peeperkorn also called once again for a ceasefire to ensure the delivery of desperately needed medical supplies and explained some of the obstacles that hospitals face sourcing simple X-ray machines so that medical teams can help injured patients effectively.

ends

 

STORY: Gaza healthcare analysis - WHO Dr. Rik Peeperkorn

TRT: 10’15”
SOURCE: UNTV CH
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 29 MAY 2024 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST

 1.           TRANSCRIPT (English) of Dr Rik Peeperkorn, UN World Health Organization, speaking to Daniel Johnson, UNTV Geneva: “WHO actually deplores this attack, this attack on displaced people. And it demonstrates that there is no safe place in Gaza at all. It's clear.”
Daniel Johnson: “And just trying to put ourselves into the mindset of medical professionals who are having to struggle to treat, deeply burned patients, what are the kind of challenges you can explain and that they're up against, given that they are lacking - we're told, all manner of, humanitarian supplies?”

RP: “Well, I mean, with regard to this incident, reportedly 35 people, killed maybe more and multiple injured and indeed a lot with, with horrific burns. what we heard. And so, so they were, a number of Denver treated as, a W.H.O. and partners, support to trauma stabilization point, but also at the IMC hospitals and UK met hospitals. You can only do so much in Gaza. And when it comes to to really extensive burns, et cetera., there's no place currently in Gaza where that can be treated.

So we discussed, medical evacuations many, many times. And since the Rafah closure, 6 May, no one has been actually - there's no medical evacuation outside, Gaza and it was already a huge problem before.

DJ: “How many people need to be evacuated from Gaza right now?”

RP: “Well, our estimates is that, we talk about our estimate around 10,000, people. And of course, for a lot of people, we we they always think it's we talk about trauma patients, the spinal injuries, the patients would need reconstructive surgery, the burns patients, which we just discussed, etc. But there's also many patients before this crisis, on average, 50 to 100 patients per day were referred to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, 40 per cent was oncology cancer-related patients. Well, they need to go somewhere and they need to be evacuated. It's just up till now, there's still not a proper system in place. And we've been pleading with all parties, that we want a system like that.

“WHO is ready to support a system like that; Egypt is willing to receive more patients. Also, countries in the in the so-called EMRO region are willing to receive more patients. And we also got some reaction of some of the European countries which are ready to receive more patients. So, we just need a system in place and the Rafah border needs to be open as soon as possible, and not just for medical evacuation. Also to get our medical supplies in, because I want to make a point on that. The Rafah crossing being closed is hampering specifically also the WHO operations in a substantial way, because almost 100 per cent of the medical supplies essential medicine, medical equipment, equipment, consumables come through Al Arish and Rafah.

DJ: So they're not going to come through the maritime corridor. They're not going to come from the north. You're saying this is not an adequate alternative?

RP: Currently, absolutely not. And let's be clear, a lot of those essential medicines are temperature-sensitive, etc.. So we need to monitor that, properly. So since the closing of the Rafah crossing, we only have had three WHO trucks into Rafah. They came through Kerem Shalom and that's the only supply. We fortunately still have some supplies, but they are quickly running out.

Currently there are 60 - 60 - WHO trucks standing in our Al Arish ready to get into Gaza. So again, this plea, the Rafah crossing needs to be opened not just for medical supplies, but for all other humanitarian supplies.

DJ: Right. “You talk about medical supplies, vaccines, temperature-sensitive treatments. But we heard at a press conference earlier today that there are barely any scanning machines for people who need to have X-rays and know how to set bones. I mean, how are doctors and medical professionals actually operating on people who need the right kind of care and the indications on how to do it?”

RP: “Well, that's that's a really good point you raise; thewhole medical imagery, images, has really been deteriorated all over Gaza. And currently, what I get there's only one functional CT scan south of Gaza… So in all of these areas, there's a lack of, of supplies and specifically when you raise the issue on, on x rays or MRI, etc., we also think about a future. If you think about early recovery, early recovery and reconstruction. And so we will have to think completely different in the past; in the past it was very difficult to get in this kind of supplies into Gaza.”

DJ: “Because of the dual use, issue, the fact that they might be used by, fighters, even though sometimes we've seen that, scissors for medical, surgical use weren't allowed in for that very reason...”

RP: “You know, I can give an example, the WHO and it's way before the crisis, to get 10 mobile X-rays into Gaza. So it took us almost two years to get three mobile X-ray. Every referral hospital everywhere around the world have a number of these mobile X-rays; they are in the referrals with almost everywhere. So it absolutely doesn't make sense and I just want to make this point when we all hope there will be a sustained ceasefire very soon. And then when you start thinking about the healing process and early recovery and reconstruction, we need to think completely different about getting the supplies into Gaza including, of course, specific medical and medical equipment and supplies.”

DJ: “It's very tempting to think about what's going to happen once there is a ceasefire. so quickly then what is the World Health Organization thinking? What kind of discussions is it leading with Member States about how to rehabilitate Gaza which as we see, is largely levelled.”

RP: “So, WHO as part of the “one UN” we are leading and coordinating health within one UN and with our partners…and hopefully this will lead to a Palestinian solution and will lead also finally to an improved health system and an improved health sector for all Palestinians.

“I want to make one point. It's not just about reconstruct and renovation, it’s also how do we make sure that Palestinian health workers get back to woRP? There were before this crisis, there were 25,000 Palestinian health workers in Gaza, well-trained; we talk about 11,000 nurses and midwives, five to 6,000 medical doctors, 5 to 600 medical specialists, paramedical workers, lab technicians, etc. I don't say it had the best health system, but it has a reasonable functional health system. A number of health workers have left, yeah, but there's still a lot of health workers in Gaza. Most of them are still in Gaza. We estimated properly 20 to 30 per cent is still on the job. Many have to flee. Many are in these makeshift camps etc. and makeshift settlements etc. But still the current health services are mainly run by the health workers and incredibly resilient health workers. A lot of them are volunteers, most of them are not receiving any salary. So, we have to also think about the whole human resource approach to make sure we get Palestinian health workers back in place and indeed working towards a Palestinian solution.”

DJ: “I’m sorry, but it’s not too soon to think about the future? A layman layperson might think, my goodness, these images I'm seeing from Gaza, how on earth can you treat people when we're hearing about amputations happening without anaesthetic?”

RP: Well, we will have to ensure, of course, that, the, essential medicines and medical supplies content, that they will be continuously flowing into Gaza, that has to be improved, that is possible, by the way, and partners. We have, distributed an enormous amount of essential managed and medical supplies, but it's not enough. I mean, like, this is such an overwhelming disaster. It's not enough. Now when there would be a sustained ceasefire and there would be entry routes into Gaza which are properly managed, when there is a deconfliction mechanism which actually facilitates and supports, much more is possible.

“But finally I want to make the point, like everywhere, because we always talk about the devastation is enormous and we think very quickly about reconstruction and how as ever… we should think about people, first we should think about the communities and the people on the ground and what role do they play in their process, but also of course, all the professionals And in health, I'm talking about health professionals and health workers. And again, there's a lot of health professionals and there's a lot of very capable health professionals in Gaza, and they should be very much part - they should actually be the focus of any reconstruction and any rehabilitation process.

DJ: “Dr Rik Peeperkorn, many thanks.”

 

 


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