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Palestinian children wait to get examined by a doctor, amid a warning by World Health Organisation of a surge in infectious diseases and diarrhoea in children, at a healthcare centre in Khan Younis. Image Credit: REUTERS

GENEVA: The impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on Gaza’s healthcare sector has been “catastrophic”, the World Health Organization chief said on Sunday at an emergency board meeting, saying conditions were ideal for the spread of deadly diseases.

However, he said it would be all but impossible for the WHO to improve the situation given the ongoing violence.

“It’s stating the obvious to say that the impact of the conflict on health is catastrophic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the 34-member board.

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“In summary, health needs have increased dramatically and the capacity of the health system has been reduced to one third of what it was.” A motion being reviewed by the board proposed by Afghanistan, Morocco, Qatar and Yemen demands passage for medical personnel and their supplies and tasks the WHO with securing funding to rebuild hospitals.

Yet Tedros said that it would be “almost impossible” to meet those requests given the security situation on the ground and said he deeply regretted that the United Nations Security Council could not agree on a ceasefire following a U.S. veto.

“Resupplying health facilities has become extremely difficult and is deeply compromised by the security situation on the ground and inadequate resupply from outside Gaza,” he said.

The motion was criticised by Israel who has said it gives disproportionate attention to Israel and does not address what is describes as Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, by placing command centres and weapons inside hospitals.

Such WHO emergency sessions are rare and have occurred during health crises including during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in 2015.