We are deeply alarmed and concerned for the welfare of staff, patients, and their families at our partner Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza, which has been under siege for a week now. With the facility reportedly surrounded by snipers, no one can leave or enter, and supplies of food and water are running dangerously low. According to a staff member at Al-Awda, there are currently 92 healthcare workers, 38 patients and 40 people who are accompanying patients trapped inside. Yesterday, a surgeon inside the hospital was injured after a shot was fired from outside the hospital, as per reports from Médecins Sans Frontières.
Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, manager of Al Awda Hospital, told us in a voice note update:
“The serious and critical situation is they are searching in the houses around us, adjacent to the hospital walls. They break things and check and inspect [the homes]. There is a tank and sandbag barriers at the entrance to the hospital. Tanks are circling all day and night in the hospital square in the streets. And there are sporadic clashes from time to time. We try not to be in sight. The food supply is almost finished – in approximately four to five days. This is our situation, and we wish for safety for everyone.”
This catastrophic situation is further denying sick and injured people their essential right to healthcare, and preventing medical workers from being able to deliver life-saving care.
As one of the last remaining hospitals still functioning in the north of Gaza, healthcare workers at Al-Awda have continued to treat patients and provide maternity services under unimaginably difficult and dangerous conditions in recent weeks. In November, three doctors were killed after the fourth floor of the building was hit, while in another incident, eight medical workers were injured by shrapnel. Without fuel to operate equipment or sufficient medical supplies, staff have had to deliver babies and save lives without essentials such as anesthetics, antibiotics, incubators, and blood transfusions.
Even before the siege, the situation was taking an enormous toll on staff at the hospital. Dr Muhammed, head of limb reconstruction at Al-Awda Hospital, told us:
“The situation is horrible. I haven’t seen my family for over three weeks now. I have been working [nearly every day during] the war, for about 52 days. I have a lot of patients who need operations. The problem is that there is not another hospital working in the north, so we [are under] a lot of pressure. We ask anyone…who can stop this war to work hard to stop it because we are actually exhausted, and we feel that we are waiting for our end. For anyone working here in the North, he feels that he just [waiting for] the moment when he dies by a rocket or by bombing.”
For people trapped in the north of Gaza, which has been largely cut off from the south, the hospital has been a lifeline.
Naimah*, a midwife at Al-Awda Hospital, told us that staff recently treated a pregnant woman who was brought to the hospital after her home was hit by bombing. She said:
“She was rescued from under the rubble. She reached the hospital with several breaks and fractures all over her body. She was also in active labor, so she was rushed to the operating room.”
Our position is clear: hospitals are a safe haven. They are protected under international humanitarian law and should, ever be a target.
Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine, said:
“We are extremely alarmed by the appalling situation at Al-Awda Hospital. Terrified staff tell us they are trapped inside the building and unable to leave, and that they do not dare go near the windows in case they are hit by a bullet. Food supplies are running out, and there are many dozens of people, including very sick patients, inside. For a week now, they have been forced to endure this nightmare scenario, [without knowing] when it will end. We call for an immediate end to the fighting around the hospital so that staff can resume their healthcare duties, and patients in need can access the facility in safety.
With the majority of Gaza’s hospitals now completely out of action, tens of thousands of people are being denied their fundamental right to healthcare. Only an immediate and permanent ceasefire will prevent more lives being lost and enable the healthcare sector to begin to recover.”
For media requests, please email Christal.James@actionaid.org or call 704 665 9743.
Spokespeople are available:
- Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
- Meredith Slater, Director of Development for ActionAid USA
- Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine
ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 15 million people living in more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.