WHO urges Israel to grant access to Gaza, saying healthcare cannot be militarised

As the Israel-Gaza conflict enters its 100th day this Sunday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says healthcare must always be protected and respected; it cannot be attacked and it cannot be militarised.

WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said almost 90 per cent of the population of Gaza – 1.9 million people – have been displaced, and many have been forced to move multiple times.

People, he said, are standing in line for hours for a small amount of water, which may not be clean, or bread, which on its own, is not sufficiently nutritious.

“This Sunday marks the 100th day of the conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory,” said Ghebreyesus during a media briefing early this morning.

“The situation is indescribable. Only 15 hospitals are functioning, and only partially. The lack of clean water and sanitation, and overcrowded living conditions are creating the ideal environment for diseases to spread.”

Ghebreyesus said delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza continues to be plagued by nearly insurmountable challenges.

“Intense bombardment, restrictions on movement, fuel shortages, and interrupted communications make it impossible for WHO and our partners to reach those in need.”

“We have the supplies, the teams, and the plans in place. What we don’t have is access.”

He said WHO has had to cancel six planned missions to northern Gaza since Dec 26, when the organisation had their last aid run because their requests were rejected, and assurances of safe passage were not provided.

“The barrier to delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza is not the capabilities of the United Nations, WHO, or our partners. The barrier is access.”

“We call on Israel to approve requests by WHO and other partners to deliver humanitarian aid,” he said.

Ghebreyesus said WHO continues to call for a ceasefire, but even without one, corridors can be established to allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid and workers.

“We continue to call for the release of the remaining hostages. And we continue to call on all sides to protect healthcare, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law.”