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Gaza’s Health System at a “Breaking Point” Amid Israeli Siege & Bombing

StoryOctober 13, 2023
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The World Health Organization warns Gaza’s healthcare system is at a “breaking point” under Israel’s unabated bombing of civilians, and its blockade of resources and medical supplies. The WHO also reports dozens of attacks on hospitals and ambulances. We speak with Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a physician specializing in disaster relief with the international medical nonprofit MedGlobal, which is supporting doctors in Gaza. He calls the situation there “beyond catastrophic” as the number of critically injured patients far outstrips available hospital beds. Sahloul says the U.S. must tell Israel to stop the “hell that is raining on Gaza.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org.

On Thursday, the World Health Organization warned the health system in Gaza is at a breaking point. The WHO said, quote, “Without the immediate entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza — especially health services, medical supplies, food, clean water, fuel, and non-food items — humanitarian and health partners will be unable to respond to urgent needs of people who desperately need it. Each lost hour puts more lives at risk,” they said.

We’re joined now by Dr. Zaher Sahloul, president and CEO of MedGlobal, an international medical nonprofit that provides healthcare in disaster regions. He’s joining us from Chicago.

Dr. Sahloul, we only have three minutes. Can you talk about the situation on the ground, what’s possible, what is happening right now to the people of Gaza, especially with this demand that half of the population move from north to south? This is including the populations of the hospitals.

DR. ZAHER SAHLOUL: The situation is beyond catastrophic. I mean, I don’t have words to describe what’s happening right now. I’ve been in Ukraine, actually. I just came from Ukraine two weeks ago and visited some of the areas that were hit by the Russians. I’ve been in Syria. I’ve been in Lebanon, other places. I’ve been to Gaza four times. But this is the worst I have seen, in Gaza.

Children are dying unnecessarily because of this bombing. What happened in Israel a week ago should not justify what’s happening to the Palestinian children and the women and the elderly right now, and what will happen, the futures.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. We have only 2,500 beds in Gaza, and right now we have 7,000 critically ill, injured patients in Gaza. I’ve seen videos yesterday that was promoted by Dr. Hassam, who works in one of the hospitals in Gaza, where patients are on the floor of the emergency room because there’s not enough beds. Every exam bed has three children crying, and many of them are not crying because they are in shock. Doctors and nurses are in shock, not because of the overwhelming patients that are coming to the hospital, but because also they are not sure whether their families are safe or not or whether they will live for one more day or not. There is 75 attacks, according to the World Health Organization, in the last six days on hospitals, on ambulances, that led to 15 medics who were killed and 30-plus who were injured.

The situation going to get worse. That means more innocent people will die unnecessarily. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Gaza, with the Palestinian people of Gaza, who are not responsible for what happened in Israel. Every loss of life should be treated the same way. And I don’t think — as a physician, I’ve been in crisis areas and disasters for the past 12 years. This is the worst I have seen. And I’m really fearful for the Palestinian people and the children, that have no connection to what happened in Israel. They’re not responsible for what happened in Israel.

The situation is beyond catastrophe. And I urge our government, because they are the only party that is able to stop this hell that is raining on Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: President Zaher Sahloul, I want to thank you for being with us, president and CEO of MedGlobal, speaking to us from Chicago.

That does it for our show. Democracy Now! is currently accepting applications for a video news production fellowship. Learn more at democracynow.org.

Democracy Now! is produced with Mike Burke, Renée Feltz, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud, Sonyi Lopez. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.

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