Conference stands with Palestinian health workers

Richard Pyle from Medical Aid for Palestinians spoke to health conference detailing the harrowing situation in Gaza, where 484 healthcare workers have been killed

Health conference 2024, Brighton photo stunt in solidarity with Palestinian health workers

Health conference reopened in Brighton yesterday afternoon with a speech from campaigns and advocacy advisor for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Richard Pyle (pictured, below).

Detailing the harrowing situation on the ground in Gaza, he opened saying: “2024 marks 40 years since the founding of MAP – we had hoped to celebrate the organisation’s achievements.”

Instead, the organisation is responding to one of the gravest situations Palestinians have ever faced.

He told delegates that over 33,000 Palestinians had died in the conflict with over 75,000 injured, asking: “What do we say when the number of children killed in Gaza is higher than the number of children killed in wars around the world over the last four years?

“The fact is, there are no words, and even if there were, the people of Gaza don’t need words, they need action.”

He went on to warn that without the urgent opening of more aid routes, and the co-operation of those controlling the flow of aid into the country, the situation would become much worse.

Mr Pyle said: “One in six children under the age of 2 in the north [of Gaza] is now acutely malnourished. This is the fastest decline in a population’s nourishment ever recorded. In other words, Gaza’s children are being starved faster than ever seen anywhere in the world.

“The official assessment tells us that this famine will probably move from the north to the south of Gaza by summer unless action is taken now, not just to get aid in but to stop the violence that prevents that aid being distributed.

“People in Gaza are starving, they need 500 trucks of aid a day, at least.”

He went on to detail several horrifying instances of MAP colleagues and their families who have been injured and killed during the conflict, saying: “Last week’s attack is just the latest evidence of why we cannot mount a proper humanitarian response that will save lives until there is a ceasefire.”

Mr Pyle continued that, not only were aid workers risking their lives, but health workers in Gaza were severely at risk: “484 healthcare workers have been killed, this is more than the total number of healthcare worker deaths recorded across all countries in conflict across 2021 and 2022.”

He concluded his speech by thanking UNISON for the continued support, saying: “This is the biggest humanitarian response in MAP’s history. Thanks to the extraordinary groundswell of support from people in 160 countries across the world, we’ve been able to deliver millions of dollars of medical supplies, hygiene kits, dignity kits and warm clothes.

“I would like to say a special thank you to UNISON. Branches up and down the country have donated over £30,000 to MAP over the last few months and we are so grateful for your generosity and solidarity, your voice and your activism, it makes such a difference.”

Richard Pyle speaking to conference

Following the speech, Wilma Brown, chair of the health SGE, reaffirmed UNISON’s commitment to a ceasefire saying: “We urge them [the UK government], again, to suspend the arms trade and the UK Israel trade agreement until there is a ceasefire, full access to humanitarian aid and human rights are respected.

“UNISON was one of the first unions to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire which remains the only hope for the people of Gaza and we will continue to demand a ceasefire now until the guns and bombs fall silent.

“We have repeatedly condemned the appalling attack by Hamas which claimed the lives of over 100 civilians and continue to call for the immediate and safe release of those who have been taken hostage.

“We condemn the appalling antisemitism and islamophobia and have stood in recent months against those who seek to divide our communities. We demand an end to the occupation and the blockade and an internationally supported political solution that leads to peace, justice, and a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

After the speech and statement conference stood in solidarity with hospital and health workers in Palestine (pictured, top).