Hospitals in Gaza are experiencing “catastrophic” situations, operating far beyond capacity amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to international organizations.
Nasser Hospital -- the largest functioning health facility in Gaza, located in Khan Younis in the south -- is currently operating at 300% capacity, according to Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins sans Frontières (MSF).
An MSF surgeon said Israeli forces heavily bombed an area close to the hospital on Tuesday with no prior evacuation order, causing people to flee and putting the safety of medical workers and patients at risk.
The Israel Defense Forces said troops managed to kill at least 40 terrorists in Khan Younis at a residence where weapons and military equipment were being stored.
“The situation is catastrophic. There are way too many patients for the staff to handle,” Leo Cans, MSF head of mission for Palestine, said in a statement. “The fighting is very close to us. We hear a lot of bombing around, a lot of shooting around.”
Al-Shifa Hospital, located in the north and which is now only treating emergency trauma victims, is also struggling to handle the influx of patients, as well as thousands of displaced people, according to the World Health Organization.
"The emergency department [is] seeing hundreds of patients a day, mostly trauma, with only a handful, literally five or six doctors or nurses, to care for all of those people,” Sean Casey, WHO health emergency officer, said during a press conference Wednesday.
Casey, who returned from a five-week deployment in Gaza, described tens of thousands of people living in operating theaters, corridors and even the stairs at Al-Shifa.
A “humanitarian catastrophe” is unfolding in Gaza, he added. Of the 36 hospitals in Gaza that were functioning before the war began Oct. 7, 2023, only 16 continue to operate, according to the WHO.
“We see it every day in Gaza, getting worse and worse, and the collapse of the health system day by day, with hospitals closing, health workers fleeing, casualties continuing to stream,” Casey said. “And lack of access to medicines and medical supplies, a lack of access to fuel to run the hospital generators to keep the lights on, to keep the machines running.”
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban said poor sanitation has led to cases of diarrhea among young children increasing 4,000% since the war began, with 71,000 recorded cases among children under age 5.
Additionally, he said, due to the scarcity of both water and food, thousands of children are suffering from malnourishment.
"Since my last visit, the situation has gone from catastrophic to near collapse," Chaiban said. "UNICEF has described the Gaza Strip as the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. We have said this is a war on children. But these truths do not seem to be getting through."
"Of the nearly 25,000 people reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the escalation in hostilities, up to 70% are reported to be women and children," he said. "The killing of children must cease immediately."
Two Qatari armed forces aircraft carrying 61 tons of aid landed in el-Arish, Egypt, on Wednesday, which was then transferred into Gaza, according to the Qatari Foreign Ministry. The assistance includes medicine for both Israeli hostages and Gaza citizens, as well as food, after Qatar and Egypt brokered a deal between Israel and Hamas. There's been no verification the Israeli hostages have received this medicine yet, according to the Qataris. There are still 136 hostages held captive by Hamas, Israeli officials say.
Meanwhile, at Al-Emirati Hospital in Rafah, located on the border with Egypt, where women are receiving postpartum care, MSF workers said women are balancing the stress of childbirth with the stress of bombings and poor living conditions.
One woman from northern Gaza, Maha -- who asked that her real name not be used for privacy reasons -- said she went to a hospital when her labor pains began but all the delivery rooms were full, according to Pascale Coissard Rogeret, MSF emergency coordinator in Gaza.
“With no other option, she had to go back to her tent. Her son died. She gave birth to him in the latrines closest to her tent,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
Since the Hamas terrorist group's surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, the death toll on both sides of the conflict has been steadily rising. More than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza and over 61,000 others injured, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others injured, according to the Israeli prime minister's office.
Israeli officials say 526 IDF soldiers have been killed, including 192 since the ground operations in Gaza began.
The IDF has said it is only targeting Hamas and other militants in Gaza and alleges that Hamas deliberately shelters behind civilians, which the group denies.