WHO urges immediate protection of civilians and healthcare in West Bank

A patient receives treatment at Al-Shifa hospital's dialysis center after its rehabilitation in Gaza City on June 11, 2024. Photo: AFP

The World Health Organization raised alarm on Friday regarding a deepening health emergency in the occupied West Bank, citing a rise in restrictions, violence, and assaults on health facilities that are impeding access to crucial care.

In a press release, the UN health agency demanded urgent action to safeguard civilians and healthcare services in the West Bank.

The statement highlighted a surge in violence in the region, particularly in East Jerusalem, following the outbreak of the conflict in Gaza on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 521 Palestinians, including 126 children, by June 10.

Palestinian sources reported an even higher death toll, claiming that at least 545 Palestinians have lost their lives due to Israeli military actions or settler violence since the commencement of hostilities in Gaza.

In addition to the fatalities, over 5,200 individuals, including 800 children, have sustained injuries, placing additional strain on already overburdened health facilities, according to the WHO.

Occupied since 1967 by Israel, the West Bank has been plagued by escalating violence for over a year, exacerbated by the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

The WHO emphasized the increasing assaults on healthcare in the region, with 480 documented attacks on health facilities, ambulances, and healthcare workers between October 7 and May 28, resulting in 16 deaths and 95 injuries.

Furthermore, the agency highlighted challenges such as checkpoint closures, heightened insecurity, and the isolation of entire communities, severely limiting movement and access to essential care in the West Bank.

The ongoing fiscal crisis, exacerbated by Israel’s withholding of tax revenue earmarked for Palestinian territories, has worsened the situation.

Health workers have reportedly received only half of their salaries for nearly a year, leading to a shortage of 45% of essential medications.

The WHO underscored the urgent need for protection of civilians, health infrastructure, and uninterrupted access to healthcare services in the West Bank to avert a deepening humanitarian catastrophe.