Field hospitals seem to be multiplying in the Gaza Strip. First, the one sent by
Jordan (~40 beds) on November 20, then most recently by the United Arab Emirates (~150 beds), a country where
COP 28 has just opened, with Morocco and Turkey announcing theirs. Not to mention
Egypt, on the other side of the border, which provided modest hospital capacity from the start of the Israeli operation. A French hospital ship with around 30+30 beds was sent to,
officially, « to support the hospitals of Gaza », but, off the Gaza Strip for 5 days, he
doesn’t welcome anyone yet… In itself, the needs are so immense that these are welcome, even if it only seems like a tear in the ocean of tears.
What do we mean by « supporting Gaza’s hospitals »? There are still 12 hospitals in operation
This means a theoretical capacity of 1,400 beds (40%), in reality ? to care for the 41,000 wounded (cumulative data), the approximately 1,120 weekly deliveries, the people suffering from the various epidemics currently raging on a large scale (diarrhoea, respiratory infections in particular), etc., etc., etc., etc. The list of urgent needs is truly long. How much longer will they function, as the example of the North does not leave much hope?
Indeed, the arrival of these field hospitals raises questions, while a convoy of Doctors
sans Frontière come under murderous fire and are bulldozed, despite having duly reported their movements to the Israeli authorities (yes, outsiders do report their movements), and the usually well-equipped permanent hospitals are destroyed one after the other, in untold suffering.
We had documented the day-to-day, somewhat naively, without suspecting the conclusion, the end of the
Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest hospital complex. We could talk about discovery,
during the ceasefire, of these decomposing premature babies, apparently abandoned after
the forced evacuation of Al-Nasr hospital on November 11 (presence of premature babies at the time)
documented by médecins sans frontière). Unbearable. With equally terrible consequences, the
destruction of most of the water wells in the north of the Gaza Strip is underway, worsening an already bankrupt sanitary situation. Why don’t these « countryside » hospital teams, located on the bangs of urban agglomerations, invest in the hospitals that are still standing, if only those still able to function in the south of the Gaza Strip, and thus considerably reinforce their real capacity? What’s more, their presence alone would protect them, and the care they receive would take place in a better environment?
From a public health point of view, this is absurd.
Christophe de Brouwer
Honorary full-professor and former president of the School of Public Health at the Free University of Brussels.
Brussels. (December 4, 2023)