GENEVA: An estimated 8,000 patients need evacuating out of the Gaza Strip, the World Health Organization said Tuesday, voicing frustration that few have so far been transferred outside the besieged territory.

The WHO said moving such patients out of Gaza would relieve some of the strain on the medics and hospitals that are struggling to keep functioning in a war zone.

“We estimate that 8,000 Gazans need to be referred outside Gaza,” Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO representative in the Palestinian territories, told a press briefing in Geneva via video-link from Jerusalem.

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Of those, an estimated 6,000 are related to the conflict, including patients with multiple trauma injuries, burns and amputations, he said.

The other 2,000 are regular patients, he said, noting that before the war began, 50 to 100 patients a day were referred from Gaza to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, of which around half were cancer patients.

The Gaza war began after the October 7 attack by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

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The Palestinian fighters also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.

Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed more than 30,600 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

‘Enormous stress’

Only 2,293 patients were referred outside Gaza for medical treatment between October 7 and February 20.

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Peeperkorn said the process involved not just the WHO but also the authorities in Gaza, Israel and Egypt, plus the hospital directors.

He said the WHO had been pushing for a streamlined medical evacuation system since November and “we don’t understand… why is it essentially not happening”.

He said Egypt, other Middle Eastern countries and some in Europe had offered to receive patients and their companions.

“We would like to see, and are pushing for, an organised, sustained medevac. First of all for the patients who need it, and deserve to get better treatment,” said Peeperkorn.

“But it would also help to relieve some of the enormous stress these collapsing health services are under in Gaza.”

Peeperkorn said that 23 out of 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were not functioning, with the rest only partially or minimally operational.

Since the start of the conflict, 1,500 amputations have been performed, he added, pointing to numbers from the Gaza health ministry.

Back in early November, after the first evacuations of wounded patients, the WHO said Al-Arish Hospital, in the closest major Egyptian city to the border, would be the main first referral hospital, with onward referrals to second-line hospitals in Egypt.


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