WHO Regional Director
visits Gaza, urges support for healthcare
Dr Ala Alwan, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean,
made a visit to the Gaza Strip and Ramallah on 11 August to witness
first-hand the humanitarian conditions in Gaza and review the damage to
the health infrastructure and facilities caused by Israel’s bombardment.
He discussed priority requirements with leading figures in healthcare.
Dr Alwan started his mission in Jerusalem where he met Dr Jawad Awwad,
the Palestinian Minister of Health, and his senior staff. Dr Alwan
visited three hospitals that had been damaged by Israeli bombardment and
were no longer functioning, including the Mohammed Al Durrah pediatric
hospital in which 30 people were injured on 24 July.
“The level of
damage to the health system in Gaza is considerable and requires urgent
support from partner and donors,” said Dr Alwan. Up to one third of
hospitals and one half of primary healthcare clinics had to be closed
either because of damage or because of being in an insecure location for
staff and patients.
According to a press release issued by WHO Eastern
Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) in Cairo, Dr Alwan toured Gaza’s
main hospital, Al Shifa, meeting with casualty patients, health workers
and the hospital directors who described how the hospital staff had
managed to treat the many casualties it received under exceptionally
difficult conditions. Dr Alwan congratulated the hospital directors and
leaders in the health sector for being able to maintain effective
emergency services, even when 240 seriously injured patients arrived at
the same time: “Their dedication and highly professional work are
greatly appreciated,” he said.
More than 300,000 people have been
displaced from damaged homes and have taken refuge in UNRWA and
government schools as temporary shelters. Dr Alwan visited one school
where more than 1000 people have taken refuge in extremely overcrowded
conditions. “I am particularly worried about the risk of waterborne and
communicable disease in such settings where overcrowding, poor hygiene
and lack of access to clean drinking- water predispose to disease
outbreaks. These risks have to be addressed immediately,” said Dr Alwan.
Dr Akihiro Seita, UNRWA’s Director of Health and also a senior WHO
official, accompanied Dr Alwan during his visit and highlighted the
health challenges in shelters: “While we do our best, we are deeply
concerned about the health and hygiene situation in our very crowded
shelters. Our efforts are limited as a result of heavy damage to the
entire water, electricity and sewage systems.”
Even if the war ceases
now, more than 50,000 people will have lost their homes. “Recovery and
reconstruction will require an immediate assessment of needs and
considerable resources. There is an urgent need to provide mental health
support for patients, bereaved families, children and especially for
displaced persons, many of whom no longer have a home to go to,” said Dr Alwan.
Palestinian health authorities are planning to refer more
patients to hospitals outside of Gaza to access life-saving treatment as
well as to reduce the caseload in the hospitals to a more manageable
level. Dr Alwan said that there was a need to speed up approvals and
procedures to allow these patients to be transported across border
“Referral of patients outside of Gaza to receive specialized
treatment will have to be facilitated at all levels,” urged Dr Alwan.
Dr Alwan pledged WHO’s continued support to the Ministry of Health and to
the Palestinian health system in general: “Health workers have been
doing heroic work since this crisis began. Our WHO staff in Gaza and
Ramallah have been working jointly with the Palestinian health
authorities in an integrated way in responding to the immediate and
urgent needs to support and sustain emergency health services in Gaza
throughout the crisis.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met
with Dr Alwan and his team, thanked WHO staff for their effective
contribution and joint work, coordination and partnership with the
Palestinian health authorities in Ramallah and Gaza. “WHO is committed
to providing support in any possible way,” said Dr Alwan.
network platform setup for MENA doctors
A new social networking platform
specifically for doctors in the Middle East has been set up. Doxunity.com is a free, secure and collaborative platform aimed at
uniting doctors across the Middle East & North African region. Doxunity
is built around the needs of physicians throughout the Middle East &
North Africa (MENA). The site enables physicians to search for
colleagues by educational institution, speciality, affiliations,
demographics and languages.
It also enables physicians to collaborate on
patient data whilst abiding to patient information privacy laws, thus
allowing physicians to ensure proper patient diagnosis. Doxunity’s
messaging feature has the ability to upload studies, lab work, samples
and medical images for needed collaboration on tough cases. Essentially,
Doxunity is a LinkedIn for medical professionals only in the MENA
region. Doxunity www.doxunity.com
Government workers to be trained to
The Abu Dhabi government announced that around 70% of
all staff members at government organisations and institutions in the
UAE capital will be trained how to perform first aid at the scene of an
emergency before paramedics arrive.
The ‘Be a Paramedic’ initiative
conducted by the Ministry of Interior’s Emergency and Public Safety
Department will be run over three years in three phases and will include
training sessions on first aid, common health risks and how to use
Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Ebrahim Al Ameri,
Director of the Emergency and Public Safety Department at Abu Dhabi
Police, was quoted as saying: “The number of reports for medical
emergencies are increasing at a rate of about 5,000 calls annually, with
the rise of the emirate’s population and the public’s enhanced ability
Al Ameri highlighted the ministry’s recent project
for installing Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in the UAE’s most
crowded locations such as malls, public parks, and government buildings.
“During the first phase, we placed 200 working devices at 20
institutions across the capital, with the most recent AEDs at Al Ain Zoo
and UAE University. During the next phase, schools and government
institutions will be targeted. “Over the next five years, around 3,000
of these instruments will be ready at strategic locations across the UAE,”
he told the newspaper.
Fake nurses, anaesthetists, lab technicians
exposed in KSA
A report released recently by the Saudi Commission for
Health Specialties (SCFHS), notes that 828 fake certificates were
recently uncovered among health practitioners in government hospitals
The report said 929 forgery cases have been discovered in
the private health sector since the verification of health
practitioners’ qualifications was made mandatory four years ago.
According to the SCFHS report, from the total number of cases in the
government health sector, the nursing department topped the list for
forgeries at 523 cases, followed by lab test technicians (60), X-ray
(47) and anaesthesia technicians (37).
New hospitals for Makkah
the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MoH) announced a series of health
projects in the Makkah region worth more than SR3 billion (about US$800
million)). Some of the hospitals and clinics are already under
construction, according to a report in Arab News. Projects include the
construction of a 500-bed hospital in northern Jeddah costing almost
The hospital is partially operational, while other works
are under way. The project also includes out-patient clinics and kidney
dialysis buildings. In the eastern part of Jeddah there is a 300-bed
capacity hospital being built at a cost of SR310 million.
the report other projects include the construction of a medical tower at
King Fahd Hospital in Jeddah, with a capacity of 270 beds and costing
Death from heart attack on the rise in young Saudi
The Arab News, quoting Dr. Mohammed Khalil, a senior cardiology
consultant in Saudi Arabia, reports that there is an alarming increase
in mortality in young people under the age of 35 due to cardiac arrest.
The newspaper says several doctors have revealed that this is often due
to hidden heart defects or abnormalities caused by smoking, obesity and
lack of exercise. Other cardiologists estimate that at least four cases
of mortality out of 10 are youngsters.
Dr. Khalil told the newspaper
that “cardiac arrest normally occurs due to coronary artery disease or
heart failure, conditions that are uncommon in people this young, but
lately, smoking and obesity have become major risk factors for cardiac
“We have noticed that around 50% of youngsters we examine
suffer from obesity, which leads to diabetes, hypertension and high
levels of cholesterol, all major risk factors for heart attacks. Cases
of sudden death in youngsters are on the increase. Many of these
youngsters die before reaching hospital.
“It is important to spread
awareness on this issue and educate people on the importance of
decreasing tobacco consumption, taking up regular exercise and eating a
proper diet to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease.”