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WHO Votes To Send Emergency Medical Personnel and Supplies into Gaza, as U.S. and Israel Differ

WHO delivering medical supplies in Gaza. WHO X page.

In a rare emergency session of the World Health Organization today, the proposal by Afghanistan, Qatar, Yemen and Morocco to have WHO medical personnel and supplies delivered into Gaza was passed by the 34-member board. According to Reuters, after the United States signaled in the meeting that it would not oppose the text of the motion, it was adopted by consensus. Israel, not a member of the board, said that the action puts disproportionate focus on Israel, made no mention of the Israeli hostages in Gaza and does not address what Israel describes as the Hamas use of civilians as human shields, by placing command centers and weapons inside hospitals. Israeli Ambassador to UN agencies in Geneva Meirav Eilon Shahar called the adopted text a “complete moral failure.”

Mustafa Barghouti, MD, a Palestinian politician who heads the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, said, according to Reuters: “Half of Gaza is now starving,” and 350,000 people had infections—including 115,000 with severe respiratory infections. They lack warm clothes, blankets and protection from the rain. Further, many were suffering from stomach complaints because there was little clean water and not enough fuel to use to boil it, risking outbreaks of dysentery, typhoid and cholera.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom commended the 34 countries for finding common ground, noting that it was the first time any UN motion had been agreed by consensus since the conflict began. The proposal also requires WHO to document violence against healthcare workers and patients and to secure funding to rebuild hospitals. He said in his opening remarks: “I must be frank with you: these tasks are almost impossible in the current circumstances…. Resupplying health facilities has become extremely difficult and is deeply compromised by the security situation on the ground and inadequate resupply from outside Gaza.” He deeply regretted the failure of the UN Security Council’s ceasefire. Of course, it was the U.S. veto that killed the ceasefire resolution.

Dr. Tedros’ closing remarks were remarkably joyful, however: “I thank Member States for the resolution you have adopted. You have achieved something that so far, Member States have not achieved in other fora: the first consensus resolution on the conflict in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory since it began two months ago. …

“Of course, the adoption of this resolution is only a starting point. It does not resolve the crisis. But it is a platform on which to build. I understand Israel’s need to protect its people from further and future attacks, and to live in peace and security. And I likewise understand the need of the Palestinian people to live in peace and freedom. We must continue to believe that both are possible, and are not mutually exclusive….

“We will continue to work with our partners to deliver aid where and when we can. And we will continue to remind the world that there is no health without peace, and no peace without health.

“As always, the medicine that the people of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory need the most is not one we can deliver in a truck, or administer in a syringe.

“It is the most precious medicine, and often the most rare: hope.”