Families of staff of international organisations shelter at a United Nations centre after UNRWA said it relocated its central operations centre to the south of Gaza Strip after Israel's call for more than 1 million civilians in northern Gaza to move south within 24 hours, amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 13, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

The World Health Organisation said on Friday local health authorities in Gaza had informed it that it was impossible to evacuate vulnerable hospital patients from northern Gaza after Israel’s military called for civilians to relocate south within 24 hours.

“There are severely ill people whose injuries mean their only chances of survival is being on life support, such as mechanical ventilators,” said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.

“So moving those people is a death sentence. Asking health workers to do so is beyond cruel.” WHO, which already warned that hospitals in the Gaza Strip were at a breaking point, said hospitals in the south of the Gaza Strip were overflowing, while the two major hospitals in the north had already exceeded their combined 760-bed capacity.

“Hospitals have only a few hours of electricity each day as they are forced to ration depleting fuel reserves and rely on generators to sustain the most critical functions,” Jasarevic said. “And even those functions will have to cease in a few days when fuel stocks run out.” Jasarevic added that this would have a devastating impact on injured people requiring surgery, patients in intensive care units and newborns reliant on incubators.

The Gaza Strip is also experiencing a shortage of hospital blood banks and medicine, WHO said.

“Time is running out to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, if fuel, water, food and life-saving health and humanitarian supplies cannot be urgently delivered to the Gaza Strip amidst the complete blockage,” Jasarevic said.