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medical aid

'Smell of death' pervades Gaza hospitals, says WHO's Mike Ryan

12 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been forced to close.

MEDICAL AID TEAMS have reported that there is a “smell of death” cast over stricken Gaza hospitals, according to the head of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme.

The WHO’s Mike Ryan, an Irish public health expert, has described the current situation in Gaza as a “humanitarian and health catastrophe”.

12 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals have been forced to close and those that remain open are running with extremely limited medical supplies and fuel.

Thousands of people have been killed and injured by Israeli strikes in recent weeks. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time, Ryan said that the healthcare situation is “beyond belief”.

“66% of primary health care centres are closed. We’ve got many hospitals out of action and supplies are running low,” he said.

We have pregnant women. We have people with disabilities. We have people on dialysis. We have people on cancer therapy.

He said the civilians who have been injured and killed are “not combatants… these are ordinary human beings who are caught up in the most awful conflict”.

“Notwithstanding the terrible suffering of civilians in Israel, notwithstanding the hostages that have been taken and the people who have been affected, the reality is that what is now happening in Gaza is beyond. It is beyond belief.”

In terms of fuel, hospitals are “running on a trickle”, Ryan said.

“Anyone in Ireland can imagine what it would be like in Dublin or in Galway or Cork if the hospital shut down, if there was no electricity and no water and no food if there was no fuel,” he said.

“There are thousands of people sheltering at the hospital. The Al-Shifa Hospital alone has over 30,000 civilians sheltering on the grounds of the hospital.”

He said that WHO teams delivered more than 50 pallets of medical aid into Al-Shifa Hospital on Wednesday.

“Their report to me is that the smell of death, the smell of death in the place, is unreal,” Ryan said.

“It’s very hard to describe the reality for the civilians on the ground in Gaza. Very, very hard to put it into words.”

Israel has cut supplies of food, water, power and fuel to Gaza.

Only 74 trucks of food, water and medicine have been allowed to enter since the conflict escalated this month, which aid groups says is far below what is needed to help civilians.

Previously, around 500 trucks entered Gaza daily, according to the United Nations.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has started to “significantly reduce its operations”.

Around 45% of housing in Gaza has been damaged or destroyed, the UN has said. 

Additional reporting by AFP

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