WHO warns of risk of disease spreading in Gaza amid continuing siege

09 Nov 2023 10:57am
Children injured in an Israeli strike are rushed to the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Oct 15, 2023. - (Photo by DAWOOD NEMER / AFP)
Children injured in an Israeli strike are rushed to the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on Oct 15, 2023. - (Photo by DAWOOD NEMER / AFP)

ANKARA - The UN health agency on Wednesday sounded the alarm bell on the risk of rampant disease in Gaza amid Israel’s siege and continuing attacks.

"As deaths and injuries in Gaza continue to rise due to intensified hostilities, intense overcrowding and disrupted health, water, and sanitation systems pose an added danger: the rapid spread of infectious diseases," Anadolu Agency reported the World Health Organisation wrote on X.

Worrying trends are already emerging, it noted, including diarrhea, "as people consume contaminated water."

"The situation is particularly concerning for almost 1.5 million displaced people across Gaza, especially those living in severely overcrowded shelters with poor access to hygiene facilities and safe water, increasing risk of infectious diseases transmission," the WHO also said.

It reported the agency pointed to over 33,000 cases of diarrhea, over 54,800 cases of upper respiratory infections, and thousands of other cases of disease since mid-October.

"Disrupted routine vaccination activities, as well as lack of medicines for treating communicable diseases, further increase the risk of accelerated disease spread," the WHO also warned, adding that basic infection prevention has become impossible in health facilities amid the siege and conflict.

"WHO calls for urgent, accelerated access for humanitarian aid - including fuel, water, food, and medical supplies - into and throughout the Gaza Strip," the agency said, calling on all warring parties to "abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health care."

The Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday that 172 injured Palestinians and their companions have been evacuated from the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt for medical treatment since the beginning of November.

Anadolu Agency reported spokesperson Ashraf al-Qedra, who made the announcement did not specify the locations of treatment.

"We lose dozens of critical and severe cases daily due to the Israeli occupation's prevention of the wounded from leaving," he added.

Al-Qedra pointed out that "thousands of critically and severely injured cases do not have access to treatment in Gaza hospitals."

In early November, the first group of dozens of war-wounded Palestinians from Gaza and hundreds with dual nationalities, began entering Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, according to Palestinian and Egyptian statements. - BERNAMA