How bad is Gaza’s disease outbreak amid the Israel war?

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gaza is currently experiencing a surge in infectious diseases, including diarrhea and chickenpox. Medical organizations have also expressed concerns about the potential outbreak of cholera and other epidemics in the besieged enclave.

Moreover, the water and sanitation emergencies in Gaza have resulted in the residents being trapped in the repercussions of Israeli attacks and blockades on a daily basis. The absence of safe drinking water and the contamination of water sources due to the breakdown of infrastructure has played a role in the rise of infections.

Confronted with these constraints, a significant number of individuals in Gaza are forced to reside in overcrowded shelters, which could potentially expedite the transmission of diseases. Additionally, numerous people are compelled to migrate from the northern to the southern parts of Gaza in large groups as per Israeli evacuation directives.

Michael Talhami, the strategic program adviser for critical infrastructure and essential services in the Near and Middle East for the International Committee of the Red Cross, stated that the combination of inadequate access to clean water and sanitation, high population density, and a significant number of people who have relocated to the southern three governorates creates a favorable environment for the outbreak and transmission of infectious diseases.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is important to be aware of the prevalent infectious diseases that have been spreading rapidly in Gaza since mid-October.

What diseases are affecting Gaza the most?

1. The number of recorded cases of upper respiratory infections has reached 54,866, with symptoms including runny nose, coughing, and throat pain. Prior to the recent war outbreak, respiratory diseases were already a leading cause of death in the Gaza Strip.

2. Diarrhoea has affected over 33,551 individuals, with half of the cases occurring in children under five years old. Drinking contaminated water is a major contributor to this illness, which has seen a significant increase compared to previous years.

3. Skin rashes have affected 12,635 people, with redness, inflammation, and itching being common symptoms. Inadequate water supply for proper hygiene has been identified as a leading cause of skin rashes and scabies.

4. Parasitic infections such as scabies and lice have affected 8,944 individuals, causing severe itching. While lice infest the hair, scabies burrow into the skin and can occur on other parts of the body.

5. Chickenpox has been reported in at least 1,005 cases, causing itchy blister-like rashes and fever. Although it primarily affects children, adults can also be infected.

What are some of the factors behind these diseases?

1. Overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions are prevalent in Gaza, with families forced to live in cramped apartments or inadequate UN facilities that fail to meet basic standards of safety and dignity.

2. The living conditions in Gaza are dire, with families either living in overcrowded apartments or seeking refuge in UN facilities that are deemed unfit for providing safe and dignified living conditions by the UN itself.

3. In Gaza, families are faced with the harsh reality of living in cramped apartments or substandard UN facilities that fail to meet basic standards of safety and dignity, exacerbating the risk of infectious disease outbreaks.

In the Gaza region, the accumulation of solid waste on the streets has become a concerning issue. This has resulted in the creation of breeding grounds for insects and rodents, which are known carriers and transmitters of diseases, as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Furthermore, the contamination of water supplies in Gaza has become a significant problem. Harmful bacteria have infiltrated the water sources, including drinking water, originating from the sea. This has led to an increase in infections among the population, whether individuals are using water for laundry purposes or trying to stay hydrated. Talhami, an expert in the field, emphasized the challenges faced in ensuring the safety of the drinking water supply. Despite efforts to treat the water at its source, there are numerous opportunities for contaminants to enter during the delivery process. Monitoring these circumstances proves to be extremely difficult. Moreover, the damage inflicted upon residential buildings can further contribute to the contamination of water supplies used for domestic purposes. This occurs due to the interconnectedness of these buildings with the infrastructure that runs beneath main roads and side streets, as explained by Talhami.

Sources from Aljazeera.

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