WHO Calls for Protection of Healthcare Workers in Gaza
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a plea for the safeguarding of humanitarian and healthcare workers in the Gaza region. This urgent call comes after a disturbing incident took place at a checkpoint where medical workers were reportedly detained, beaten, and subjected to various forms of harassment.
The WHO team, along with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), had been on a mission to deliver crucial medical supplies and assess the situation at a hospital in Gaza City. However, their noble efforts turned into a nightmare when they reached the Wadi Gaza checkpoint.
At the checkpoint, two PRCS staff members were detained for an hour while one of them was subjected to a horrific ordeal of harassment, beatings, being stripped, and invasive searches. Shockingly, the checkpoint is maintained by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who have refused to respond to any inquiries about the incident.
Making matters worse, as the convoy entered Gaza City, it came under fire, but it remains unclear who was responsible for the attack. Despite successfully completing their mission, the team faced further obstacles on their return journey. Once again, they were stopped at the same checkpoint, and one of the PRCS staff members was subjected to further interrogation.
Frustratingly, after more than two and a half hours of attempting to secure their colleague’s release, the team was forced to leave the area to ensure the safety of the patients and other humanitarian workers. Fortunately, the detained PRCS worker was eventually released, but his account of the detention is distressing. He claims to have been harassed, beaten, threatened, stripped, blindfolded, and left to walk towards the south with his hands tied behind his back, without clothes or shoes.
The WHO, alongside other humanitarian organizations, is deeply concerned about the safety and wellbeing of healthcare workers who risk their lives to provide medical assistance in conflict zones such as Gaza. The call for increased protection for these individuals is essential to ensure that they can carry out their duties in such challenging environments without fear of harassment, violence, or worse.
As the situation in Gaza remains tense, it is crucial that all parties involved uphold international humanitarian law and respect the rights and safety of healthcare workers. The WHO continues to advocate for the implementation of measures that will prevent such incidents and protect those who dedicate their lives to helping others in need.
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