Drawing on the core values and principles of public health, including humanitarianism, health equity and social justice and as public health professionals, we, faculty and staff from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut, are appalled by the ongoing Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and the immense human suffering of civilians, and medical personnel in Gaza. As the conflict continues, an unprecedented public health catastrophe unfolds against a backdrop of total lack of humanitarian assistance.
The Palestinian death toll has reached over 3000, with an additional 12,500 people injured and around 1 million internally displaced across the Gaza Strip in just ten days. Among the dead, 724 are children. WHO documented 59 attacks on health care facilities, resulting in 16 fatalities of health care workers and 28 injuries, as well as extensive damage to 26 hospitals. These data precede the attack on Al Ahli Hospital which killed more than 500 people, many of whom were sheltering in the hospital as a site of safety. In addition, 167 educational facilities have also been damaged, including at least 20 UNRWA schools.
We raise our voice against the indiscriminate Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza and hold unwavering solidarity against the deliberate destruction of health facilities and the killing of healthcare and humanitarian aid workers. We also condemn the weaponization of food and water as a means of exerting control and power, which is prohibited by international humanitarian law, and the unlawful denial of humanitarian access to affected populations which only exacerbates the already dire situation.
As public health professionals, practitioners, and educators, we strongly condemn the appalling acts of violence on civilians in Gaza and the attacks on health care facilities. We call upon colleagues in and outside of academic institutions and on governments, international organizations, and civil society to:
- Elevate war as a public health priority, and demand a ceasefire, together with the lifting of the siege on Gaza. We recognize that a ceasefire without a long-term solution will only serve to take global attention away from the contextual and historical reality that Palestinians face.
- Secure measures for life-saving humanitarian assistance to reach civilian populations.
- Protect medical facilities, health care personnel, and the wounded, under international law.
- Recognize food, water, and electricity as a basic human right, free from political manipulation or weaponization, and put an end to these practices during times of armed conflicts.
- Allocate humanitarian aid funds to restore the health and other essential infrastructure in Gaza and secure the safe return of displaced people.
- As public health professionals, and in the spirit of justice and self-determination, we urge the world to follow and listen to our colleagues on the ground in Gaza and Palestine, to uplift and magnify their voices.
As public health professionals, and in the spirit of justice and self-determination, we urge the world to follow and listen to our colleagues on the ground in Gaza and Palestine, to uplift and magnify their voices.