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Critically ill infants evacuated from besieged Al-Shifa Hospital

In a joint UN mission, in partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, we successfully evacuated 31 critically ill newborns from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza to a facility in southern Gaza recently.

The mission, designated as high-risk owing to continuous warfare in the area, made use of six ambulances provided by the Palestine Red Crescent, with assistance from UN Mine Action, UNICEF, and UNRWA.

In a statement, the UN Health Agency said that the infants, who originally moved within Al-Shifa due to electricity shortages and security risks, faced dire conditions.

Pointing out that two babies succumbed to their conditions before an evacuation could begin, the World Health Organisation stated that lack of clean water, fuel, medicines, food, and other essential aid over the past six weeks has forced Al-Shifa Hospital, once the largest, most advanced, and best-equipped referral hospital in Gaza, to essentially stop functioning as a medical facility.

Describing the situation inside the hospital, the WHO stated that the rescue team observed that due to the perilous security situation, it has been impossible for the staff to carry out effective waste management in the hospital. Corridors and the hospital grounds were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection.

Referring to their discussions with the health staff, the Geneva-based UN Health Agency said that patients and health staff were terrified for their safety and health and pleaded for evacuation.

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“Al-Shifa Hospital can no longer admit patients, with the injured and sick now being directed to the seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital,” the statement added.

The neonatal intensive care unit at Al-Helal Al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza is now attending to 31 infants, with doctors reporting serious infections resulting from a lack of medical supplies.

The evacuation included six health workers and their ten family members, previously sheltering at Al-Shifa. WHO stated that the mission aimed to address the critical situation faced by both patients and health workers, as the hospital was incapacitated by a lack of essential resources and an intensely hostile situation. 

However, the agency pointed out that over 250 patients and 20 health workers remain at Al-Shifa and need immediate evacuation. The hospital, once a vital healthcare facility in Gaza, is in dire need of restoration to provide essential health services.

WHO reiterated its urgent plea for an end to hostilities, a ceasefire, and humanitarian assistance, pointing out that overcrowded hospitals in the north facing shutdown and quick attempts to restore functionality and provide crucial health services in Gaza are required.

“People's acute suffering necessitates a collective and quick response of humanity and compassion,” the organisation said.

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