WHO calls for immediate release, access to, and medical support for hostages taken by Hamas

Gravely concerned by the humanitarian and health situation facing approximately 200 people, including health workers and up to 30 children, abducted from Israel by Hamas and other armed groups on 7 October 2023, the World Health Organization today reiterated its call for the immediate release of all the hostages, along with urgent access to each of them and delivery of medical care.

The call was made by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus following discussions today with an Israeli non-governmental organization, the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, that represents families of the abducted people.

“We met today with families of people abducted from southern Israel on 7 October and heard firsthand the tragedy, trauma and suffering they are facing,” said Dr Tedros. “There is an urgent need for the captors of the hostages to provide signs of life, proof of provision of health care and the immediate release, on humanitarian and health grounds, of all those abducted.”

“Many of the hostages, including children, women and the elderly, have pre-existing health conditions requiring urgent and sustained care and treatment. The mental health trauma that the abducted, and the families, are facing is acute and psychosocial support is of great importance.”

Dr Tedros said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) should be granted immediate access to the hostages to understand their health status. WHO stands ready to provide the ICRC, which is mandated to provide support to hostages in conflict situations, with any health support for the hostages, Dr Tedros added.

“I thank the families for sharing their heartbreaking stories. I committed, on behalf of WHO, to do all we can to support the health and humanitarian needs of those being held captive. All civilians who are suffering in this conflict must be protected.”

Dr Tedros added: “We will do everything in our power as WHO to protect and promote the health of all people as that is the mission of our Organization: to care for each and everybody’s health no matter the conditions and circumstances,” said Dr Tedros. “We call on WHO Member States, humanitarian partners, all other relevant parties, and the public at large to put the health of people first and foremost in their minds and take immediate action to end the ongoing suffering.”