The situation in Gaza is dire, with the World Health Organisation warning that the region is on the “precipice of major disease outbreaks”. Of the 36 hospitals in Gaza, 22 are out of action, leaving over 800,000 people crammed into overcrowded schools and other “collective centers”. Skin infections such as scabies, jaundice and diarrhea are becoming increasingly common due to poor hygiene and lack of access to clean water.
One major issue is the limited availability of toilets. There is only one toilet for several hundred people, leading to widespread open defecation. This has resulted in chest infections, respiratory infections and cases of jaundice that raise concerns about hepatitis.
The schools were designed to accommodate displaced people but their populations are six to eight times what they were intended for. Many families are living in tents with each person having only one to three liters of clean water per day, which falls far below the accepted minimum of seven liters in a humanitarian crisis. This has led to an increase in cases of chest infections and respiratory illnesses.
The WHO is currently working with authorities to trace the parents of 31 premature babies who were evacuated from al-Shifa hospital and taken to southern Gaza. These babies are very low in weight and have serious infections, raising concerns about their survival. Mr Richard Brennan, regional emergency director for the WHO, said that this next few weeks will be “very tough indeed” as many families continue to subsist on just one meal a day.
Overall, the situation in Gaza remains precarious with a high risk of disease outbreaks due to poor hygiene practices and limited access to clean water and medical care.