• Rafah

  • Thursday, December 7, 2023 at 10:37 AM
    Last Update : Friday, December 8, 2023 at 6:43 AM

WHO Warns of Epidemics In Overcrowding Southern Gaza

(AWP) - The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that deaths due to infectious diseases and epidemics could surpass the number of deaths caused by the Israeli bombing in Gaza unless the medical sector receives urgent support.

WHO described the challenges facing the healthcare sector as extremely significant, stressing that rebuilding the system quickly is the only way to avoid an even bigger health tragedy.

Emad Jamal Rams, an emergency department doctor at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza, affirmed WHO’s warnings saying that "there has been an increase in the number of deaths due to diseases transmitted between people, not from bombings but because of overcrowding in schools and the movement of people from one area to another. These diseases include hepatitis, scabies, skin infections in general, cholera, and severe intestinal infections. Of course, these epidemics have spread rapidly among the population [in southern Gaza]."

He added, "[Displaced people], especially from the north and the central regions, and currently Khan Yunis, are all crowded together in one area, and Rafah cannot accommodate this large number. This leads to the spread of deadly diseases, especially hepatitis – for which there is no direct treatment – leading to an increase in the number of deaths."

Rams said that there has been a recent spread “of other diseases, such as smallpox, scabies, and meningism.”

He added, "All of these diseases have spread due to the scarcity of water and the inhalation of smoke [generated by burning waste for heating and cooking, and which is emitted by vehicle exhausts fuelled with frying oil instead of conventional fuel], which has contributed to acute chest infections that can lead to death in some cases."

Rams concluded, "The impact of diseases increases due to the high density of people in one area. If, for example, one of them is infected with severe influenza, this leads to the spread of infection among all the displaced people present in one classroom [the classroom in shelter schools where the displaced take refuge], and if he also suffers from gastroenteritis, this will lead to the spread of gastroenteritis. This is what we observed among the large number of those coming to the Kuwaiti Hospital, where we receive at least 500 displaced people a day suffering from intestinal infections, hepatitis, and severe influenza."

In a statement, WHO explained that the fuel shortages have led to the closure of water desalination plants, exacerbating the risk of bacterial infections such as diarrhoea due to the increased consumption of contaminated water.

Moreover, fuel shortages have disrupted all solid waste collection, creating an environment conducive to the spread of insects and rodents that can transmit diseases or be ideal carriers.