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Gaza Facing ‘Infectious Diseases and Epidemics ... Unprecedented in Modern History’

Photo by CDC / Unsplash

The Gaza Strip is set to turn into a disaster area, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor reported yesterday, “as infectious diseases and epidemics spread in a way that is catastrophic and unprecedented in modern history.” They cite record numbers and overcrowding of displaced people, the lack of clean drinking water, inadequate sanitation, and malnutrition as all leading to a public health disaster.

There are high rates of infectious diseases including diarrhea, acute respiratory and skin infections, and hygiene-related diseases. Vulnerable populations, such as disabled individuals, pregnant and nursing women, injured people, and those with weak immune systems are present in large quantities. Then the power outages and shortage of delivered fuel have “led to the total closure of water desalination and sewage plants, greatly increasing the risk of bacterial infections spreading, as polluted drinking water transmits diarrhea-related diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, and polio.” On top of all this, the normal daily processing of 2,000 tons of waste has been disrupted, due to the danger to municipal crews and the inability to access the main landfills on Gaza’s border.

“Based on testimony gathered by the Euro-Med Monitor team from doctors, health officials, and international relief organizations, over 20,000 cases related to upper respiratory infections were registered in the first week of this month alone. Under normal circumstances, the Gaza Strip records roughly 2,000 cases per month related to respiratory diseases of all types. … A record-breaking outbreak of inflammatory skin diseases has also been reported, involving over 5,000 cases of chickenpox, 18,800 cases of skin rashes, 10,000 cases of scabies, and tens of thousands of cases of severe influenza,” they report.

Haaretz reports that “blood tests carried out on some of the released [Israeli] hostages showed signs of dangerous viruses that have apparently reached Gaza’s water supply. Along with a shortage of food and medicine. ... these are early warning signs of the spread of dangerous diseases.” Apparently there are previously unidentified viruses, and if they are showing up in the 100 or so released hostages, they are likely rampant amongst the 1.8 million displaced Palestinians.

The Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor-based release, published by the UN OCHA’s news agency ReliefWeb, concluded: “Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor emphasized the urgent need for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the lifting of Israel’s strict siege, imposed on civilians as a collective punishment. The siege in itself is a war crime, said the rights group, and must be stopped by the international community in order to save the lives of civilians in Gaza, who are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law.”