Gaza hospitals stretched, need supplies to treat wounded: WHO

GENEVA Sat Nov 17, 2012 3:24pm EST

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Gaza hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties from Israel's bombings and face critical shortages of drugs and medical supplies, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.

The U.N. health agency appealed for $10 million from donors to meet the need for drugs and supplies over the next three months.

Officials in Gaza said 43 Palestinians, nearly half of them civilians including eight children, had been killed since Israel began its air strikes. Three Israeli civilians were killed by a rocket fired from the enclave on Thursday.

Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday with the declared goal of deterring Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, from launching rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.

The WHO, quoting Health Ministry officials in Gaza, said 382 people have been injured - 245 adults and 137 children.

"Many of those injured have been admitted to hospitals with severe burns, injuries from collapsing buildings and head injuries," the WHO said in a statement issued in Geneva.

Health authorities have declared an emergency situation in all hospitals to cope with patients, it said.

"Before the hostilities began, health facilities were severely over stretched mainly as a result of the siege of Gaza," the WHO said. Israel maintains a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip with the help of neighboring Egypt.

The Gaza Ministry of Health's supplies of many life-saving drugs and disposable equipment were at "zero stock", it said.

"The Ministry of Health has postponed all elective surgeries due to the emergency and shortages in anaesthesia drugs," it said. Non-urgent cases are being transferred to hospitals run by aid groups and health personnel have been asked to report to the nearest health facility for extended shifts, it said.

"WHO appeals to the international and regional community for urgent financial support to provide essential medicines to cover pre-existing shortages, as well as emergency supplies for treating casualties and the chronically ill," it said.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Alison Williams)

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