A joint team of United Nations and World Health Organization workers on an “assessment mission” to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City called the hospital a “death zone” and said the situation is “desperate,” according to a statement released by the WHO Saturday.
The humanitarian team found a mass grave at its entrance, which they were told contained the bodies of 80 people. The hospital, which has been without clean water, fuel, food or medical supplies for the past six weeks, also contained signs of shelling and gunfire, according to the statement.
Some are unable or unwilling to leave Al-Shifa: 291 patients and 25 health workers remain. Damage and lack of key resources at the hospital had caused it to “essentially stop functioning as a medical facility,” the WHO statement said, adding that medical and solid waste piled in the corridors. Many injured patients’ wounds were severely infected due to the absence of sanitation and infection control measures at the hospital, it said.
The statement added that evacuation plans for patients to hospitals in the south are being “urgently developed” by humanitarian organizations, but the ability to carry them out is “pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict.”
The World Health Organization said Sunday that it and its partners are making plans to evacuate the remaining 25 health workers and 291 patients at Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital, where conditions continue to deteriorate.
The hospital is no longer operational and is no longer admitting new patients and has become what a United Nations humanitarian assessment team called a “death zone,” the WHO said.
“Over the next 24–72 hours, pending guarantees of safe passage by parties to the conflict, additional missions are being arranged to urgently transport patients from Al-Shifa to Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital in the south of Gaza,” the WHO said. However, the organization stressed that the latter two hospitals are also overwhelmed, and an influx of patients will “further strain overburdened health staff and resources.”
The WHO called for immediate efforts to restore functionality at Al-Shifa and other hospitals to provide urgently needed services in Gaza. “The extreme suffering of the people of Gaza demands that we respond immediately and concretely with humanity and compassion,” the WHO said.
Hundreds fled on foot from Al-Shifa Hospital towards the southern Gaza Strip amid conflicting reports from health officials and the Israeli Defense Forces about who ordered an evacuation. Some rode in horse-drawn carts while others were pushed in wheelchairs.
Dr. Ramez Radwan described seeing bodies in the streets as they walked on the road leading from the hospital through Gaza City.