Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Recent news from WHO

  • In January, following the outbreak of hostilities on 27 December, WHO warned that Gaza’s fragile health services could collapse if steps were not taken to support them. As of 14 January, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 1011 people, including 13 health workers, had been killed and over 4650, including 22 health workers, had been injured in Gaza – one of the world’s most densely populated places.

To provide urgent health care, WHO launched a US$ 13.3 million response plan. It has been coordinating the plan through its offices in Cairo, Gaza, Geneva and Jerusalem, and by working closely with the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah and with health cluster partners. Partners include the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.

As part of the Israeli government’s humanitarian efforts to assist the civilian population of Gaza, a forward emergency treatment centre was opened at the Erez crossing into Gaza on 18 January. According to the Israeli government, the Ministry of Health will operate the emergency treatment centre there through the Magen David Adom.

WHO warned of possible outbreaks of disease in Gaza – with its high population density and dire living conditions – following the serious disruption to the vaccination programme there. On 10 January, 203 tonnes of life-saving medical supplies and five new ambulances crossed from Rafah into Gaza. These were donated by Algeria, Jordan, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey, as well as the Arab Medical Society and the Egyptian Sharia Society. As of 14 January, 37 of Gaza’s 58 primary health care centres managed by the Ministry of Health were functioning, with an average of 30% staff attendance.

WHO also raised concerns about sanitation and water quality in Gaza, noting that waste management had not been assured and garbage had not been collected since the end of December. Monitoring and surveillance of water quality had not been carried out, since the central public health laboratory closed due to its proximity to open conflict on 4 January. Health-care facilities were receiving 8–12 hours of electricity supply a day. Hospitals had received some fuel. On average all Ministry of Health hospitals and the Central Drug Store had 40–50% of their fuel storage capacity. UNRWA and WHO were working to ensure hospitals are receiving enough fuel.

  • Hospitals reduced the number of major complications following surgery by one-third in eight cities around the globe by using a simple surgical checklist developed by WHO. These findings, published on the web site of the New England Journal of Medicine, were based on data collected from 7688 patients – 3733 before and 3955 after the checklist was introduced, WHO said on 14 January.

For more about these and other WHO news items please see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre