Fuel shortage to have ‘catastrophic’ impact on hospitals in Gaza: WHO

Published July 6, 2024
LIBYANS gather for a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians at Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, on Friday.—AFP
LIBYANS gather for a demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians at Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, on Friday.—AFP

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation chief has warned that a dire lack of fuel could have a “catastrophic” impact on already devastated health services in the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

Desperate fuel shortages have been a constant problem in the besieged Palestinian territory. “Further disruption to health services is imminent in Gaza due to a severe lack of fuel,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday .

The UN health agency cautioned that only 90,000 litres of fuel entered Gaza on Wednesday. The health sector alone needs 80,000 litres daily.

This is forcing WHO and its partners working in Gaza “to make impossible choices”, Tedros said.

Gaza is completely sealed off and everything that enters it is controlled by the Israelis.

Fuel, which has been particularly difficult to get in amid Israeli fears it could benefit Hamas fighters, is vital to keep hospital generators running, as well as humanitarian and emergency vehicles.

Urgent plea

WHO said its partners were directing limited fuel supplies to “key hospitals”, including the Nasser Medical Complex and Al Amal Hospital, in Khan Yunis, and the Kuwaiti field hospital in Rafah.

Fuel was also going to 21 ambulances run by the Palestinian Red Crescent.

This was “to prevent services from grinding to a halt”, Tedros said.

He pointed out that the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Yunis had been out of service since Tuesday, and warned that “losing more hospitals in the Strip would be catastrophic.” Tedros’s comments came after the Nasser Hospital, the only major one still functioning in Gaza, released an urgent plea for fuel needed to keep operating its ICU, the Al Quds daily reported.

The hospital had said most of its wards were out of service, and warned it now faced the risk of power outages.

The situation was especially dire after hundreds of sick and wounded patients were moved to Nasser after being evacuated from the now defunct European hospital.

The Kuwaiti field hospital also warned that it would go out of service unless it received fuel to power its generators, Al Quds reported.

‘Completely obstructed’

Since Israeli forces seized the main Rafah crossing in May, aid and especially fuel into Gaza has slowed to a trickle.

WHO said that the limited deliveries of fuel into Gaza via the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing, “combined with insecurity and challenging routes, have further eroded our ability to maintain fuel supplies for health and humanitarian operations”.

Hostilities in Rafah in the south had meanwhile “completely obstructed access to the main fuel storage facility”, Tedros said.

“We again issue an urgent appeal for the Rafah crossing to be reopened and for a sustainable flow of fuel, food, water and medical supplies to be permitted into Gaza,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2024

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