A second WHO-led joint UN mission, working in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society, has evacuated 31 babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, to a hospital in southern Gaza. The severely ill babies were transported in 6 ambulances supplied and staffed by the Palestine Red Crescent. Other mission members included UN Mine Action, UNICEF and UNRWA. The mission was once again assessed as high-risk, due to the active combat taking place in close proximity to the hospital.
Due to security concerns in the hospital and a lack of electricity to run their life support, these premature and low birthweight babies had already been transferred from the newborn unit in Al-Shifa to a safer region. A few days ago, two newborns passed away before the evacuation.
The babies were successfully transported to the neonatal intensive care unit at Al-Helal Al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza, where they are being assessed and stabilized. Doctors there say all the babies are fighting serious infections due to lack of medical supplies and impossibility to continue infection control measures in Al-Shifa Hospital. Eleven are in critical condition.
Sadly, none of the infants were accompanied by family members, as the Ministry of Health has only limited information, and is not currently able to find close family members. Six health workers and 10 of their family members, who had been sheltering at the hospital, were also evacuated.
The evacuation, which was requested by health workers and patients during the joint mission, became necessary as Al-Shifa Hospital is no longer able to function due to a lack of clean water, fuel, medical supplies, food, other essential items and the intense hostilities. WHO remains deeply concerned about the safety and health needs of patients and health workers who remain at Al-Shifa Hospital, and in the few partially functional hospitals in the north that face imminent closure.
There remain over 250 patients and 20 health workers at Al-Shifa, who all request immediate evacuation. Planning is ongoing to evacuate the remaining patients, their families and the health-care workers. Given the complex security and logistics constraints, these evacuations will take several days to complete. Priority will be given to the 22 dialysis patients and 50 patients with spinal injuries. WHO reaffirms its respect for the dedication, professionalism, humanity and courage of the health staff who have continued to care for their patients under unimaginably difficult conditions.
WHO reiterates its plea for collective efforts to bring an end to the hostilities and humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian access to all of those in need, the unconditional release of all hostages—many of whom have serious medical needs—and the cessation of attacks on health care and other vital infrastructure.