Gaza's Children at Risk as Hospitals Face Dire Threats, UNICEF Warns


Gaza's Children at Risk as Hospitals Face Dire Threats, UNICEF Warns
© Getty Images News/Spencer Platt

The healthcare system in Gaza is on the brink of collapse, with hospitals becoming increasingly unsafe for children and families, according to UNICEF spokesperson James Elder. His remarks came during a briefing in Geneva, following his recent visit to the conflict-stricken region.

Elder's comments paint a grim picture of the healthcare crisis in Gaza, exacerbated by recent attacks. The situation reached a critical point when Al Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, one of the largest fully functioning hospitals in the area, was shelled twice within 48 hours.

This hospital has been a refuge for many, sheltering children who have been injured in attacks on their homes, as well as hundreds of women and children seeking safety.

“Over the past 48 hours, the largest remaining fully functioning hospital was shelled, twice.

That hospital – Al Nasser in Khan Younis – not only shelters large numbers of children who had already been badly injured in attacks on their homes, but hundreds of women and children seeking safety,” Elder said Tuesday in Geneva after a recent visit to Gaza.

The gravity of the crisis was further highlighted by the tragic death of 13-year-old Dina Abu Mohsen, who was killed by a shell that landed in part of the Nasser Medical Complex.

Safety Concerns and the IDF's Response

The safety of hospitals and shelters in Gaza has come under intense scrutiny.

Elder emphasized the vulnerability of children and families in the region, stating, “They are not safe in hospitals. They are not safe in shelters. And they are certainly not safe in the so-called ‘safe’ zones”.

This statement underscores the dire circumstances faced by civilians caught in the crossfire. In response to the damage at the Nasser Medical Complex, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) told CNN that an “initial review” did not conclusively determine the source of the damage.

The IDF has consistently stated that it does not target hospitals, focusing instead on what it describes as "Hamas strongholds." On the other hand, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Ministry of Health, denies using hospitals for military operations.

Humanitarian Crisis and the Risk of Disease

The ongoing conflict has not only led to direct casualties but has also created a looming threat of disease outbreaks. Elder warned that the lack of water, sanitation, and adequate shelter in the so-called safe zones could lead to a surge in child deaths due to disease, potentially surpassing those killed in bombardments.

This adds another layer of complexity to the humanitarian crisis, as the healthcare infrastructure struggles to cope with the escalating situation.