Prevented from speaking at the Emergency Meeting of the WHO’s EB this Sunday, Ilyas Al-Jelda, the Vice-President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza - currently seeking shelter with his family and 600 others in a church - sent a powerful message, read by PSI, shedding light on the horrific conditions facing public service workers in Palestine.
The devastating situation in Gaza prevented Ilyas Al-Jelda, a health worker from the Gaza Strip, from speaking at the Emergency Meeting of the WHO’s Executive Board this Sunday. He is currently seeking shelter with his family and 600 others in a church. But he sent a powerful message - read by Public Services International (PSI) - shedding light on the horrific conditions facing public service workers in Palestine.
Ilyas, who is the Vice-President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza, was initially scheduled to speak at the WHO Executive Board Special Session, as a member of the PSI delegation. But he could not connect to the meeting due to unreliable communication from where he is seeking shelter with his family.
“I was forcibly displaced as my home was bombed by the occupation forces and found refuge with my family in the church, which was also not spared from the bombing. With the other 600 refugees, we lack the most basic needs. You may not believe me if I tell you that we are without food, water, and vegetables, not to talk about electricity, and the lack of medicines for the elderlies such as my mother.”
10 December 2023
WHO Emergency EB on Gaza - PSI statement
Public Services International, the Global Union Federation representing health and care workers facilitated the engagement of frontline health staff at the meeting.
PSI General Secretary, Daniel Bertossa, said:
“The thousands of health and care workers in Palestine who risk their lives daily to provide the only care available in apocalyptic circumstances must have a voice. Ilyas Al-Jelda is a reminder to us all that the worst often goes unseen and the most in need unheard. Public service workers across the world will not stay silent as we watch our fellow health professionals face unspeakable violence and destruction. We support calls for a permanent ceasefire and call on both sides to ensure that civilians and health workers are never put in the firing line."
Daniel Bertossa PSI General Secretary
We support calls for a permanent ceasefire and call on both sides to ensure that civilians and health workers are never put in the firing line
The World Health Organization's Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged the tragic loss of life among Palestinian health workers, adding that:
“[...] The impact of the conflict on health is catastrophic. More than 17,000 people are reported to have died in Gaza, including 7000 children, and we don't know how many are buried under the rubble of their homes. [...] On average, there is one shower unit for every 700 people and one toilet for every 150 people. Gaza's health system is on its knees and collapsing. Only 14 hospitals out of the original 36 are even partially functional. [...] Only 1400 beds are available out of an original 3500. [...] More than 180 women give birth in Gaza every single day. There are 2000 patients on cancer therapy, 350,000 patients with diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, and at least 20,000 civilians in need of acute psychiatric care. [...] A ceasefire is the only way to truly protect and promote the health of the people of Gaza.”
10 December 2023
WHO Emergency EB on Gaza - DG Tedros Ghebreyesus' report
PSI calls for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further loss of life and human suffering. The collective punishment of the population of Gaza for the actions of Hamas, resulting in the indiscriminate killing of civilian Palestinians, cannot be justified.
Full Statement by PSI at WHO EBSS7
PSI affiliates represent health workers in Gaza where hundreds of them have been killed so far. Their leader is sheltering with his family in a church that is being bombed and is without water, food, medication and reliable communication. They have asked us to urge Member States to urgently:
1- Ensure an immediate ceasefire and work to stop the war.
2- Restore health sector infrastructure
3- Provide modern equipment and assistance to extract the dead and injured from the rubble.
4- Allow field hospitals and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
5- Facilitate the return of the displaced to their homes.
6- Send international missions to assess and meet health needs.
Palestinians have a right to live and work in safety. We urge you to heed their call.
Full Statement by Ilyas Al-Jelda, Vice-President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza
Dear women and men of WHO Member States, who represent Humanity in the world,
I am Ilyas Al-Jelda, Vice-President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza (GUHSW).
Gaza, in war since 65 days, witnessed the demolition of houses, hospitals, thousands of dead whose exact number is unknown, women, children and the elderly sleeping outdoors with no cover but the sky.
More than 1,900,000 are displaced with no food, clean water, and clothing to protect them from the cold. Lack of medicine and inhumane living conditions have led to the spread of diseases. And there is no milk for babies.
Currently, the Gaza Strip is the scene where human rights standards are routinely violated, and is witnessing a genocide.
I was forcibly displaced as my home was bombed by the occupation forces and found refuge with my family in the church, which was also not spared from the bombing. With the other 600 refugees, we lack the most basic needs. You may not believe me if I tell you that we are without food, water, and vegetables, not to talk about electricity, and the lack of medicines for the elderly such as my mother, without their special supplies (like Pampers, etc )
On International Human Rights Day, I address an appeal to you, my fellow free people
1- Work to stop the war on Gaza. The Palestinians have the right to live in safety.
2- Mobilizing efforts to restore the infrastructure of the health sector
3- Providing Gaza with modern equipment and civil defense crews as quickly as possible in order to extract the dead and injured from under the rubble.
4- Working to allow field hospitals and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza
5- Working on the return of the displaced to their homes
6- We also invite you to international missions that aim to meet health needs in the Gaza Strip
Together to end the long-lasting occupation and recognize the right of our people to self-determination and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Peace to the dead, freedom to the people, and recovery to the wounded.
Resolution approved by consensus
In the end, WHO’s Executive Board adopted by consensus a resolution aimed at addressing the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
This is the first time since 7 October that a resolution on this conflict has been adopted by consensus within the UN system. It underscores the importance of health as a universal priority, in all circumstances, and the role of healthcare and humanitarianism in building bridges to peace, even in the most difficult of situations.
Among other points, the resolution calls for “immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief, including the access of medical personnel.” It calls on “all parties to fulfill their obligations under international law…and reaffirms that all parties to armed conflict must comply fully with the obligations applicable to them under international humanitarian law related to the protection of civilians in armed conflict and medical personnel.”
The resolution also commends WHO and health cluster partners in the field for remaining and delivering. Just yesterday, 9 December, amid extremely difficult circumstances, WHO and partners delivered supplies for up to 1500 patients and transferred patients from the Al-Ahli Hospital in the north to one in the south.
In remarks delivered throughout the day, many Member States offered sympathies for the loss of life of civilians, as well as health workers and UN employees, including WHO colleague Dima Alhaj.
In his closing remarks, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the adoption of the resolution was a starting point. “It does not resolve the crisis. But it is a platform on which to build.” He added that “Without a ceasefire, there is no peace. And without peace, there is no health. I urge all Member States, especially those with the most influence, to work with urgency to bring an end to this conflict as soon as possible.”