WHO-led Joint UN and Red Crescent Mission Evacuates 31 Infants from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

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31 Infants Evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

31 Infants Evacuated from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza – A second joint UN mission led by the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PCS) evacuated 31 premature and low-birthweight babies from the northern Gaza hospital (Al-Shifa) to a hospital (South Gaza) this morning. The severely ill children were transported in six ambulances provided by the PCS and staffed by UN Mine Action (UNMA), UNICEF, and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The mission has been re-evaluated as a high-risk one due to the ongoing fighting in the vicinity of the hospital.

The babies had previously been moved from the hospital’s neonatal unit (NUU) to a safer area in the hospital due to a lack of electricity to run their life support and security risks in the hospital. Two babies died yesterday and last night before the mission could be completed.

(Note, there were 33 babies under care yesterday, according to a Ministry of Health update.)  

The babies were taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at Al-Helal al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza, where they are being treated and stabilized. According to the hospital’s doctors, all the babies are suffering from severe infections due to a lack of medical equipment and the inability to maintain infection control measures at the hospital, with 11 of them in critical condition.

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Unfortunately, none of the babies were accompanied by any family members, as the ministry of health has limited information and is currently unable to locate any close family members.

The hospital also evacuated six health workers and ten of their family members who had been hiding at the hospital.

Today’s mission was led by WHO senior staff, including a medical specialist and a doctor, and was also supported by representatives from UNiceF, UNMAS, and UNRWA. The medical staff of the Palestine Red Crescent Society were also present, along with their medical supplies and ambulances. The evacuation, which health workers and patients requested during a joint mission yesterday, was necessary due to a lack of access to clean water, fuel and medical supplies, as well as food and other essential items, due to the ongoing hostilities. WHO remains deeply concerned about the health and safety of those who remain at Al-Shifa, as well as those in the few partially operational hospitals in the northern areas that are facing imminent closure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) expresses its gratitude for the partnership and support from the rest of the United Nations, working together as One UN, in order to restore health services to the people of Gaza.

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The complex and high-risk operation, occurring in an active conflict zone, follows an assessment mission yesterday, 18 November, which included public health experts, logistics specialists, and security staff from OCHA, UNDSS, UNMAS/UNOPS, UNRWA and WHO. Today’s mission was deconflicted with the Israel Defense Forces and with the defacto authorities.

Al-Shifa is still holding more than 250 patients and 20 health workers, all of whom are demanding immediate evacuation. Plans are underway to evacuate the remaining patients, their families, and health-care workers, but due to security and logistical constraints, it could take several days to finish. Priority will be given to 22 patients on dialysis and 50 with spinal injuries. The World Health Organization (WHO) expresses its appreciation for the commitment, professionalism, humanity, and courage of the health workers who have continued to provide care for their patients in difficult circumstances.

The WHO urges all parties to work together to end the hostilities and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It calls for an immediate cease-fire, a continuous flow of humanitarian aid, unhindered access to all those in need, unconditional release of all the hostages, many of whom have critical medical needs, and an end to attacks on health care facilities and other essential infrastructure.