Gaza in Dire Humanitarian Crisis, with Hospitals Destroyed, Hunger Looming, COVID Inoculations Ended
May 18, 2021 (EIRNS)—As a result of Israel’s bombing rampage, the 2 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are suffering a dire humanitarian crisis. As World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned in his May 17 press conference, the bombings violate international humanitarian law, which demands that hospitals, clinics, schools, and healthcare infrastructure be protected. Instead, more than 18 hospitals have been completely or partially destroyed, healthcare professionals killed, COVID testing and vaccinations halted, and people are herded into crowded shelters that facilitate transmission of disease. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported that its clinic in Gaza, a trauma and burns treatment center, had been damaged by bombings, leaving its sterilization room unusable. Offices of the Red Crescent organization, part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, were also severely damaged by bombings yesterday.
Because of damage to its building, Gaza’s al-Rimal clinic, the only central laboratory able to perform immunizations, virus screenings, and telemedicine services, has ceased operation. So far, the New York Times reported today, only 1.9% of Gaza’s population have been vaccinated against COVID—compared to 60% in Israel. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza as well as the regional WHO representative warn that violence could fuel a surge in the pandemic. The situation, Dr. Tedros warned, “creates a health risk for the world as a whole.”
Hunger and lack of basic services are exacerbating the situation. The UN News website reported that, before the current crisis, two-thirds of Gaza’s people were already suffering from food insecurity. Some 53% of the population live in poverty, and the unemployment rate stands at 43%. As of yesterday, there were 58,000 displaced persons, 47,000 of whom were seeking refuge in 58 shelters located in schools run by UNRWA, and another 2,500 homeless.
World Food Program (WFP) representatives are deployed in Gaza to provide food or cash e-vouchers to allow people to buy food, as the bombing rampage goes on. There is fear that the closure of crossings from Israel will lead to commodity shortages and increased food prices. Corinne Fleischer, WFP regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, put it this way: “People in Gaza have already been living on the edge, and many families struggle to put food on the table. Their situation has deteriorated even further over the past year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The majority of the population cannot withstand further shocks and the current situation could unleash a crisis that could spill into the entire region.”