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ICRC, Red Cross societies to establish field hospital in Gaza

By JT - May 14,2024 - Last updated at May 14,2024

AMMAN — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and 11 Red Cross national societies have announced that they are joining forces to establish a field hospital in Rafah, Gaza to address the overwhelming medical needs arising from the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

According to a statement to The Jordan Times, The ICRC noted that the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), despite facing immense challenges, continues to provide essential care, adding that the PRCS has been at the forefront, offering emergency medical services to communities in Gaza, even as they grapple with significant losses. 

Seventeen PRCS members have tragically lost their lives while on duty, and crucial facilities, including Al Amal and Al Quds hospitals, several Emergency Medical Service (EMS) centres, and 25 ambulances, have been damaged or put out of service, the statement said. 

The 60-bed field hospital is set to support the PRCS’s work as the medical and humanitarian community strives to meet the vast health needs in Gaza. 

The hospital will offer emergency surgical care, obstetric/gynaecological, maternal and newborn care, pediatric care and outpatient department services. It will also include mass casualty management and triage capacities.

The ICRC field hospital, coordinated with the PRCS and backed by Red Cross Societies from Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Iceland, Japan, Norway and Switzerland, is expected to provide medical care for approximately 200 people daily, the statement said. 

People in Gaza are struggling to access the medical care they urgently need due, in part to the overwhelming demands for health services and the reduced number of functioning health facilities. Doctors and nurses have been working around the clock, but their capacity has been stretched beyond its limit.

 Attacks on medical facilities and personnel have inflicted a devastating blow on the healthcare system. According to the World Health Organisation, only 33 per cent of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and 30 per cent of primary health care centres are functional in some capacity and those that are still operational are overwhelmed with patients, the severity of their health needs, a shortage of supplies and resources to treat them, as well as displaced people looking for safe shelter.

Medical staff are faced with people arriving with severe injuries, and increasing communicable diseases which could lead to potential outbreaks and complications related to untreated chronic diseases that should have been treated days earlier. 

Amputations are common, as well as acute respiratory infection, gastrointestinal illnesses and skin diseases which are spreading rapidly through displaced communities due to a lack of clean water, sanitation and access to food. 

Chronic and serious illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, pneumonia, and infectious and non-communicable diseases, to name a few, are not receiving the attention they deserve because the priority is to treat the critically wounded.

With health needs growing by the day in Gaza, the ICRC reiterates its call for the protection of medical facilities under international humanitarian law. No patient should be killed while lying in a hospital bed. No doctors, nurses, or any medical professionals should ever die while working to save lives, the statement said. 

 Hospitals are sanctuaries to treat and preserve human life — international humanitarian law states that all parties to the conflict must respect and protect the medical mission, including infrastructure, the statement said. 

The statement also said that the field hospital is a continuation of the ICRC’s healthcare support in Gaza, which spans over 15 years, adding that the ICRC has been providing surgical services at the European Gaza Hospital and supporting other hospitals through medical donations, aiding thousands of patients since the war started.

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