UN workers delivering aid to Gaza hospital describe ‘bloodbath’ in overflowing emergency department


UN workers delivering medical supplies to the Al-Shifa Hospital in north Gaza on 16 December have described the emergency department as a “bloodbath”, with hundreds of injured people inside, and a constant flow of new patients.

According to the team, Patients with trauma injuries were being sutured on the floor, limited to no pain management is available at the hospital, and the emergency department is so full that workers must take care not to step on patients on the floor. 

Al-Shifa Hospital, formerly the most important and largest referral hospital in Gaza, is now barely functioning: the operating theatres and other major services are not working due to lack of fuel, oxygen, specialized medical staff, and supplies. The hospital is only able to provide basic trauma stabilization, and has no blood for transfusion.

A handful of doctors and nurses, and some 70 volunteers, are working under what WHO staff described as “unbelievably challenging circumstances” in a hospital “in need of resuscitation.” 

‘Trapped in a cycle of death, destruction, hunger, and disease’

In a statement released on Saturday, WHO said that it is committed to strengthening Al-Shifa Hospital in the coming weeks, so that it can resume at least basic functionality, provide critically needed lifesaving services, and serve “a besieged people trapped in a cycle of death, destruction, hunger, and disease”.

Substantial additional specialized medical, nursing and support staff, including emergency medical teams are urgently needed, and basic humanitarian needs are not being met: tens of thousands of displaced people are sheltering in the hospital, which is experience a severe shortage of food and safe water.

Currently, Al-Ahli Arab Hospital remains the only partially functional hospital in north Gaza along with three minimally functional hospitals – Al-Shifa, Al Awda and Al Sahaba Medical Complex - down from 24 before the conflict. WHO has grave concerns about the unfolding situation at Kamal Adwan Hospital in north Gaza, which has reportedly been at the centre of a military operation.

The UN workers at Al-Shifa Hospital were taking part in a joint UN mission, made up of staff from the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS), and the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS). The team delivered medicines and surgical supplies, orthopedic surgery equipment, and anesthesia materials and drugs to the hospital. 

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