In the midst of conflict-ravaged Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) raises a red flag, warning that the toll from diseases could surpass that of bombings unless urgent repairs are made to the struggling health and sanitation systems. This article delves into the critical situation in Gaza, where vital infrastructure has crumbled due to fuel and supply shortages and targeted attacks on crucial facilities.
The WHO’s Alarming Warning
The spokesperson for the WHO, Margaret Harris, recently emphasized the dire prospect during a briefing in Geneva. She underlined the urgent need to rebuild the health system to prevent more casualties from diseases than from the ongoing bombings. The collapse of al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza was labeled a tragedy, highlighting the urgent need for repairs amidst ongoing challenges.
Challenges Amidst Conflict
The WHO has repeatedly raised alarms about the escalating risk of infectious diseases, especially diarrheal diseases, in Gaza. A United Nations report on the living conditions of displaced residents in northern Gaza paints a grim reality, revealing shortages in medicines, vaccination activities, access to safe water and hygiene, and even basic food supplies.
Sanitation Crisis in Gaza
With all key sanitation services halted in Gaza, there is a looming possibility of a significant increase in gastrointestinal and infectious diseases, including the ominous threat of cholera. The 2.3 million residents of Gaza, half of whom are children, now face nearly impossible odds in finding drinkable water. Officially recorded cases by the WHO include more than 44,000 instances of diarrhea and 70,000 cases of acute respiratory infections, though actual numbers may be considerably higher.
Winter Woes and Escalating Risks
As the winter season approaches, the UN health agency expresses extreme concern about the potential worsening of the already dire situation due to rains and floods. James Elder, a spokesperson from the UN children’s agency in Gaza, highlights the critical condition of hospitals filled with children suffering from war wounds and gastroenteritis resulting from the consumption of contaminated water.
Warning from WHO Regional Director
Richard Brennan, the regional emergency director for the Eastern Mediterranean region at WHO, emphasizes that unless significant changes occur, the risk of major outbreaks will dramatically increase. Despite a temporary truce agreement between Israel and Hamas, the Hamas-run Ministry of Health reports a lack of fuel for generators at hospitals in the northern part of the territory.
International Concerns and Urgent Appeals
UN official Tor Wennesland emphasizes the ongoing catastrophic humanitarian situation, stressing the urgent need for additional aid and supplies to alleviate the unbearable suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Gaza City Mayor Yahya al-Siraj underscores the consequences of the fuel shortage, warning of a potential public health catastrophe as the territory struggles to pump clean water and clear waste accumulating in the streets.
Efforts and Challenges in Rebuilding
Efforts are underway to clean up al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, with hopes of its soon resuming normal activities, according to Gaza health ministry spokesman Mahmud Hammad.
In conclusion, the urgent need for repairs and support in Gaza’s health system is evident. Immediate international intervention is crucial to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe that could surpass the toll of the conflict itself. The people of Gaza, especially the vulnerable children, are in desperate need, and time is of the essence.