Gaza: WHO adopts resolution on access for lifesaving aid
© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba | Babies at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital being prepared for evacuation
United Nations, 8 December 2023
In a special emergency session held on Sunday in Geneva, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a resolution by consensus, aimed at addressing the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
This is the first time since 7 October that a resolution on this conflict has been adopted by consensus within the UN system, the UN health agency noted. It underscores the importance of health as a universal priority, in all circumstances, and the role of healthcare and humanitarianism in building bridges to peace, even in the most difficult of situations.
The resolution calls for “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel.”
It calls on “all parties to fulfill their obligations under international law…and reaffirms that all parties to armed conflict must comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and medical personnel.”
The resolution also commends WHO and health cluster partners in the field for remaining and delivering.
The Executive Board of WHO consists of 34 people all qualified in the health field, each one designated by a Member State that has been elected to serve by the World Health Assembly.
On Saturday, amid what WHO described as extremely difficult circumstances, the health agency and partners working on the ground in Gaza delivered supplies for up to 1,500 patients and transferred patients from the Al-Ahli Hospital in the north to a facility in the south.
Attacks on healthcare must stop
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening remarks that he deplored “the barbaric and unjustifiable attacks by Hamas on Israel of 7 October, which killed more than 1,200 people, and added that he was “appalled by reports of gender-based violence during the attacks, and by the mistreatment of hostages.”
He expressed relief that 114 hostages have been released and repeated his call for them all to be freed.
“I well understand the anger, grief and fear of the Israeli people following the horrific attacks two months ago”, Tedros said.
“I also understand the anger, grief and fear of the people of Gaza, who had already suffered through 16 years of blockade, and are now enduring the destruction of their families, their homes, their communities and the life they knew.
Since the 7th of October, WHO has verified more than 449 attacks on healthcare in Gaza and the West Bank, and 60 attacks on healthcare in Israel, he said, adding that “healthcare should never be a target.”
“I also grieve the loss of more than 100 of our UN colleagues in Gaza, including our own Dima Alhaj, who was killed alongside her six-month old son, her husband and her two brothers.”
The resolution calls on Tedros to report on the public health implications of the crisis; strengthen technical and material assistance, and to strengthen partnerships with other care providers.
“But I must be frank with you: these tasks are almost impossible in the current circumstances”, he lamented.
He applauded the UN chief’s invocation of the powerful emergency tool Article 99 last week, and António Guterres’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire, saying it was “the only way to truly protect and promote the health of the people of Gaza.”
Tedros expressed deep regret that the Security Council was unable to adopt a resolution on such a ceasefire last Friday.
Resolution ‘a starting point’
He said despite “difficult” negotiations over the Executive Board’s text, he appreciated the spirit of cooperation and compromise on the part of board members to reach consensus on the resolution.
In remarks delivered throughout the day, many Member States offered sympathies for the loss of life of civilians, as well as health workers and UN employees.
In his closing remarks, WHO chief Tedros said the adoption of the resolution was a starting point. “It does not resolve the crisis. But it is a platform on which to build.”
He added that “without a ceasefire, there is no peace. And without peace, there is no health. I urge all Member States, especially those with the most influence, to work with urgency to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible.”
In a statement released in response to the resolution, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Meirav Eilon Shahar, deplored the lack of reference to hostages in the text.
The resolution also fails to condemn “Hamas terrorism” or the group’s use of human shields, she said, branding the text a “complete moral failure for the international community.”
The original article appeared here.