WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis

The World Health Organization lamented on Friday the worsening health situation in the occupied West Bank, where access to care is being progressively hampered by rising restrictions, acts of violence, and attacks on medical facilities.

The UN health agency issued a statement in which it demanded “the immediate and active protection of civilians and health care in the West Bank.”

It stated that since the conflict in Gaza broke out on October 7, there has been an increase in violence throughout the West Bank, especially in East Jerusalem, and that by June 10, 521 Palestinians have died, including 126 children.

According to Palestinian officials, since the start of the Gaza war, at least 545 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers, raising the death toll in the West Bank even more.

In addition to the deaths, more than 5,200 people — 800 of them children — have been injured, the WHO said, stressing that this only added to “the growing burden of trauma and emergency care at already strained health facilities”.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has experienced a surge in violence for more than a year, but especially since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza erupted more than eight months ago.

That conflict started as a result of Hamas’s historic onslaught on Israel on October 7, which, according to an AFP count based on Israeli official data, claimed 1,194 lives, the majority of them civilians.

251 captives were also taken by the militants. Out of them, 116 are still in Gaza, despite the army claiming 41 had died.

The health ministry of Gaza reports that at least 37,266 Palestinians have died as a result of Israel’s retaliatory offensive, the majority of whom were civilians.

The Gaza Strip’s medical institutions have been attacked on multiple occasions during the conflict.

Additionally, the WHO reported on Friday that there were more attacks being made against West Bank healthcare.

Between October 7 and May 28, it said it had documented a full 480 such attacks in the West Bank, including on health facilities and ambulances, and the detention of health workers and patients.

Those attacks had left 16 people dead and 95 injured, it said.

At the same time, checkpoint closures, growing insecurity, and sieges and closures of entire communities were making movement within the West Bank increasingly restricted, making access to care ever more difficult.

The WHO warned that a long-standing fiscal crisis — made worse since October 7 as Israel increased its withholding of tax revenue meant for the Palestinian territory — was also taking its toll on health care.

This, according to it, led to “health workers receiving only half of their salary for nearly a year and 45 percent of essential medications being out of stock” .

Additionally, it stated that hospitals were only using about 70% of their capacity.

Patients found it increasingly difficult to access medical care outside of the West Bank; since October 7, 44% of requests to visit clinics in East Jerusalem and Israel have been either denied or delayed.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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