**GENEVA (October 17, 2023) **– Continued violent displacement and threats of further attacks on the besieged Gaza Strip pose a major public health risk and emergency, a UN expert said today after at least 12 health workers were killed , and 24 Gaza health facilities were affected by the escalation of violence in the region.
“All parties to the conflict and their international partners must ensure rapid and unhindered access to basic humanitarian supplies, including food, water and medicine, fuel and electricity,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. “The medical infrastructure in Gaza has been irreparably damaged, and health care providers are working in a difficult situation with limited access to medical supplies and conditions that do not allow them to provide timely and quality health care,” Mofokeng said.
“Humanitarian workers, doctors, civil society, human rights organizations and journalists continue to work in the region while they themselves are being bombed,” the expert said.
The World Health Organization has documented more than 111 attacks on health services in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including 48 attacks in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of at least 12 health workers.
Mofokeng said Israel is preventing essential supplies from entering Gaza, including food, water, fuel, medicine, medical supplies and equipment. “The Gaza Strip is experiencing continuous bombardment and massive destruction,” she said. “The health sector in the enclave is at a tipping point.”
Mofokeng called on the international community to intervene urgently to prevent the escalation of the conflict and to protect and respect the right to health for all, demanding access through humanitarian corridors, protection of health infrastructure and health workers. Palestinian families need immediate supplies of food, water, shelter, fuel, immediate health care, psychosocial support and psychological first aid, the expert said.
The latest escalation and manifestation of aggression in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory must not be decontextualized, the expert appealed. It represents a devastating moment in the ongoing gross structural, systemic and persistent violence that Palestinians experience every day since the occupation, she said. “I call for an immediate ceasefire and member states to stop beating the drums of war,” Mofokeng said.
“The Palestinian people have been displaced for more than 75 years. The Occupied Palestinian Territory has been under military occupation for more than 56 years — an occupation that entails a lack of accountability, continued displacement and demolition, restrictions on movement and systematic racial discrimination,” she said.
The Special Rapporteur recalled that UN member states reaffirmed their commitment to maintaining the sovereign equality of all states and respecting their territorial integrity and political independence, recognizing the period from 2019 to 2028 as the “Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace”. The Declaration supports a comprehensive approach to peacekeeping by preventing conflicts and addressing their root causes, she said.
“The steps towards realizing the right to self-determination of the Palestinians are linked to their dignity and sovereignty,” said Mofokeng. “You cannot extinguish the human desire for freedom.”
Special rapporteurs are part of what are known as special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name for the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that deal with situations in specific countries or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Specialists in special procedures work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organization and serve in their personal capacity.
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