WHO chief asks Israel to ease curbs on Gaza medical aid

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GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the World Health Organization called on Tuesday for Israel to lift restrictions on aid into Gaza saying that the primary pipeline for emergency medical aid into the enclave from Egypt had been cut off.

“At a time when the people of Gaza are facing starvation, we urge Israel to lift the blockade and let aid through. Without more aid flowing into Gaza we cannot sustain our lifesaving support of hospitals,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva.

Israel seized and closed the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt on May 7, disrupting a vital route for people and aid into and out of enclave.

Tedros said the move had impacted six hospitals and nine primary health centres and caused 70 shelters to lose their medical facilities.

“Daily consultations have fallen by close to 40% and immunization by 50%,” he said. “Approximately 700 seriously ill patients who would have otherwise been evacuated for medical care elsewhere are stuck in a war zone.”

Gaza’s healthcare system has essentially collapsed since Israel began its military offensive there after the Oct. 7 cross-border attacks by Palestinian Hamas militants on Israelis.

Tedros said that Gaza’s Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza remained under siege since Sunday, with 148 hospital staff and 22 patients and the people accompanying in them trapped inside. He said that fighting near Kamal Adwan Hospital, also in northern Gaza, had jeopardised its ability to care for patients.

“These are the only two functional hospitals remaining in northern Gaza,” Tedros said. “Ensuring their ability to deliver health services is imperative.”

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Emma Farge; Editing by William Maclean)

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