The situation in Gaza is dire, with the World Health Organization warning that the region is on the “precipice of major disease outbreaks”. Of the 36 hospitals in Gaza, 22 are out of action and overcrowded schools and other “collective centers” are housing 800,000 people. Skin infections such as scabies, jaundice, and diarrhea have been reported due to poor sanitation and living conditions. With one toilet for several hundred people and “open defecation,” the situation is worsening.
The schools were built to accommodate displaced people but their populations are six to eight times what they were intended for. Those living in tents have only one to three liters of clean water per day, which falls short of the accepted minimum in a humanitarian crisis of seven liters. This has led to chest infections, respiratory infections, and cases of jaundice that give concern for hepatitis.
The WHO is working with authorities to trace the parents of 31 premature babies evacuated from al-Shifa hospital and taken to southern Gaza. Many of these babies are very low in weight and all have serious infections. Regional emergency director Richard Brennan said that this next few weeks will be “very tough indeed” as many families are subsisting on one meal a day. He added that this situation presents a challenge for health workers who are doing their best to provide care amidst limited resources.
While Mr. Brennan described it as “one of the few good news stories of the war so far”, he also acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to address the root causes of this crisis and improve living conditions for those affected by it.