The following is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Christos Christou, Doctors Without Borders International president, that aired on Nov. 12, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Christos Christou is president of Doctors Without Borders International and he joins us now from Rome. I understand many of your doctors are working at Al Shifa Hospital, and said two infants died due to lack of electricity, the inability to keep incubators on, there are 40 premature babies who need to evacuate. Will the Israeli military help these children evacuate?
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT, DR. CHRISTOS CHRISTOU: So far, we don’t have any news about any coordinated action about evacuating at least these neonate patients. And we don’t have any news about any proper evacuation. What we see are hundreds of patients that they have underwent surgery very soon- very recently, and now they cannot be just take and walk out of the hospital. And next to them, we have newborn babies that they needed- premature babies, that they needed support. They were supposed to be in incubators, no incubator works this moment in Al Shifa. And actually, Al Shifa doesn’t work, it’s not functional.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Prime Minister of Israel has said there’s no reason why we can’t just take the patients out of the hospital. What’s your response to that?
DR. CHRISTOU: To evacuate the hospital, you need time. You need weeks. It’s not within 24 hours. And we said that several times in the past also, that it takes a lot of good organization to ever get the hospital, and next to this coordination, it takes also a ceasefire. We have reports that people trying to leave the hospital also have been shot down. We had also accidents–
MARGARET BRENNAN: By who?
DR. CHRISTOU: Snipers. And we don’t- and we don’t know what is happening also, sometimes, inside the hospital, in several places where they are bombed. There are airstrikes in the hospitals as well.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The Israeli military denies attacking the hospital complex. I know it’s a large complex. But they claim that Hamas, as you know, has a command center in that hospital. I realize you are speaking about very sensitive matters, but the lives of your staff are also in danger here. How does this get resolved?
DR. CHRISTOU: First of all, we need to understand that at this moment inside hospitals, are people, are people in need. Our patients, our children, our children, we have this acronym, the WCNSF, wounded children of non surviving families. We have several families that they are there. And these are patients. We need to understand that, we have to protect the hospitals. Any attack in the medical care at the moment is an attack on humanity.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But Israel’s military is going to go at that hospital if it is indeed Hamas’s command center. I’m sure you understand that. You say it would take weeks to get everyone out. Is there any planning?
DR. CHRISTOU: There’s no planning, everyone now leaves. Even- even the health workers have been so overwhelmed and exhausted. And they are in a position at the moment that they cannot even offer anything. So yes, what seems more likely is not a proper evacuation. But it is a panic, is a panic that will end up with rubbles.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Allowing fuel in has been a big sticking point for Israel, which worries that Hamas will get the fuel. You need the fuel to keep the generators on. Do you have any source of fuel to keep the electricity on, to keep these people alive?
DR. CHRISTOU: At the moment, there’s no fuel in that hospital, and we run out of fuel also in other hospitals, and I cannot speak on behalf of all the hospitals this right moment in Gaza. I know that there’s no electricity, we didn’t have connection in internet. All these testimonies that you get also from our colleagues like Dr. Mohammad Obeid before, was from yesterday. We lost contact later at night. We don’t know what is happening in this right moment. And we know since a long time that people do not have even access to drinkable water.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It is- I don’t even have the words to respond to what you just laid out, doctor, but thank you and we wish your doctors well along with their patients.
DR. CHRISTOU: Thank you, Margaret.