UN-Led Mission Evacuates Critical Patients from Al-Shifa Hospital Amid Ongoing Conflict

On the 22nd of November, in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, WHO engaged in its third joint UN mission to relocate 151 patients, along with their relatives and accompanying health workers, from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. This mission was conducted in response to specific pleas from health authorities and hospital officials in Gaza.

This operation marked WHO’s third visit to Al-Shifa within a week, the initial being an assessment mission on November 18, followed by an evacuation mission transporting 31 infants on November 19.

During this recent mission, the team successfully transferred 73 severely ill or injured patients, encompassing 18 dialysis patients, 26 individuals with serious spinal injuries, 8 patients with severe chronic conditions, two requiring critical care, and 19 patients in wheelchairs. Ambulances provided by the Palestine Red Crescent Society, along with two buses, were used for transportation, with 8 health workers and 70 family members accompanying the patients.

The mission was particularly high-risk due to ongoing intense fighting and shelling near Al-Shifa hospital. The evacuation, which lasted 20 hours, involved a 6-hour screening at an Israeli Defense Force checkpoint, despite an initial agreement to screen participants only at the hospital.

The screening process encompassed checks on patients, their relatives, and personnel, including the elderly, children, and severely ill patients. Six health workers, three each from the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the Ministry of Health, were detained during this process.

Despite the challenges, the convoy proceeded as the condition of some patients was deteriorating. The patients reached their final destination late at night, with most transferred to the European Gaza Hospital and dialysis patients admitted to Al Najjar Hospital, both located in the south of Gaza.

WHO remains deeply concerned about the safety of the estimated 100 patients and health workers still at Al-Shifa, whose exact number was challenging to determine due to the urgency of moving the most critical cases. Two of the detained health workers have reportedly been released, and WHO urges the full observation of their legal and human rights during detention.

These evacuations were prompted by requests from health authorities, workers, and patients, as Al-Shifa Hospital is unable to function adequately due to a lack of essential resources and recent military activities. On November 21, WHO and partners also assessed medical priorities at Al-Ahli Hospital in northern Gaza, emphasizing the urgent need for a regular and substantial supply of fuel, water, food, and medical resources for its continued operation.

In light of these circumstances, WHO emphasizes the necessity for relevant authorities to ensure the safe execution of medical evacuations, emphasizing that the ultimate responsibility for safety, security, and evacuation decisions lies with these authorities.

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