WHO plans more evacuations from Gaza hospital as bodies decompose

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The World Health Organisation (WHO) aims to evacuate more of the roughly 140 patients stranded in Gaza’s Nasser hospital, where Palestinian officials said bodies of dead patients had begun to decompose amid power cuts and fighting.

The WHO and partners have so far carried out three evacuations from the hospital in Khan Younis, the latest on Wednesday, transferring 51 patients to southern Gaza, the UN agency’s Ayadil Saparbekov said at a press briefing on Thursday.

The WHO says the hospital, Gaza’s second largest and crucial to the territory’s crippled health services, stopped working last week after a week-long Israeli siege followed by a raid.

“The WHO will continue to try evacuation of those critically ill and critically wounded patients from the Nasser hospital to other hospitals in the south, including the field hospitals that have been established in Rafah,” Saparbekov said.

“However, it’s a very difficult and high-risk mission.”

The numbers of patients remaining in Nasser hospital had been changing by the hour as some people left to escape the fighting and others succumbed to their wounds, Saparbekov said.

Gaza’s health ministry had said on Wednesday that 110 patients were waiting to be evacuated. It said eight patients at Nasser had died due to the lack of power and oxygen four days previously and that their bodies had begun to decompose, posing a risk to other patients.

When the WHO carried out the evacuation, it observed four doctors and nurses at Nasser hospital along with about a dozen volunteers helping medical staff keep patients alive, Saparbekov said.

There was no food, medical supplies, power or oxygen, and staff had not so far managed to reconnect the main generator.