Al-Shifa Hospital Reduced to Ruins After Six Months of War, Finds WHO Mission

A joint mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and several other agencies visited Al-Shifa Hospital in north Gaza on April 5 to assess the damage caused by the ongoing conflict and identify necessary steps for its restoration. The mission, conducted in collaboration with organizations such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), and United Nations Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS), aimed to evaluate the extent of destruction and determine future efforts needed to rebuild the hospital.

Prior to this assessment, WHO’s attempts to access the hospital for medical evacuations and assessments were repeatedly hindered or denied between March 25 and April 1.

Al-Shifa Hospital, once Gaza’s largest and most crucial referral hospital, now stands as a mere shell after being heavily damaged during the recent siege. The majority of its buildings are either destroyed or severely damaged, rendering most of the equipment unusable. The WHO team described the devastation as rendering the hospital completely non-functional, exacerbating the already limited access to life-saving healthcare in Gaza. Restoring even minimal functionality appears daunting, requiring substantial efforts to clear the area of unexploded ordnance for safety and accessibility.

Key hospital departments such as the emergency, surgical, and maternity wards have suffered extensive damage from explosives and fire. Critical assets such as beds in the emergency department and incubators in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have been destroyed. The destruction of the hospital’s oxygen plant has further exacerbated the healthcare crisis, leaving only one facility, Kamal Adwan Hospital, as a source of medical oxygen production in the region.

The dire situation extends beyond physical damage, with reports of patients enduring appalling conditions during the siege, including lack of food, water, and healthcare. At least 20 deaths have been attributed to the inability to access care and limited movement for healthcare personnel.

Despite efforts to coordinate missions, delays persist, with a recent mission encountering significant obstacles at military checkpoints. Such delays jeopardize crucial aid delivery and exacerbate the already dire humanitarian situation.

The destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital and other medical facilities has severely crippled Gaza’s healthcare system. WHO reiterates the urgent need for the protection of healthcare facilities, personnel, and patients, as well as the establishment of a functional deconfliction mechanism to ensure safe and expedited movement of aid. As the region faces the looming threat of famine, disease outbreaks, and escalating injuries, WHO calls for unimpeded access to humanitarian aid and a lasting ceasefire to alleviate the suffering of civilians.

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