Gaza headed towards humanitarian disaster: UN officials

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Gaza
United Nations, Aug 3: After weeks of intense fighting, the Gaza strip appears headed towards a "health and humanitarian disaster" with medical services and facilities for nearly 1.8 million Palestinians "on the verge of collapse", according to senior UN officials in the region.

At least 1,676 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed and nearly 9,000 injured in the Israeli offesnive on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip that started on July 8. Medical services and facilities in the Gaza Strip are "on the verge of collapse" and health disaster of widespread proportions is rapidly unfolding as the conflict grinds on, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory James Rawley said.

"We are now looking at a health and humanitarian disaster," Rawley said, adding that "the fighting must stop immediately".

Joining Rawley in sounding the alarm about the looming health catastrophe as a result of the ongoing violence are Director of Operations in the Gaza Strip for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Robert Turner and acting Head of Office of the UN World Health Organization (WHO) operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip Ambrogio Manenti.

The officials expressed grave concern regarding the lack of protection for medical staff and facilities, and the deteriorating access to emergency health services for the 1.8 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

After three weeks of Israeli offensive, Gaza's medical services and facilities are on the verge of collapse, with one-third of hospitals, 14 primary healthcare clinics and 29 Palestinian Red Crescent and Ministry of Health ambulances having been damaged in the fighting.

According to the UN, at least five medical staff have been killed in the line of duty and tens of others injured. At least 40 per cent of medical staff are unable to get to their places of work such as clinics and hospitals due to widespread violence and at least half of all public health primary care clinics are closed.

The latest warning from the UN officials comes in the wake of the collapse of a humanitarian ceasefire brokered by the UN and the US, which led a "profoundly shocked and disappointed" Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to state that "instead of giving both sides, especially Gazan civilians, a much needed reprieve to let them attend to their injured, bury their dead and repair vital infrastructure, this breach of the ceasefire is now leading to a renewed escalation."

PTI

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