The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded a grim alarm over the rapidly deteriorating healthcare and sanitation systems in the Gaza Strip. This is largely due to fuel and supply shortages, coupled with deliberate attacks on hospitals and United Nations facilities, exacerbated by Israeli strikes that commenced on October 7. The situation has triggered the potential for a humanitarian crisis with the WHO cautioning that fatalities from disease could soon outnumber those resulting from bombings if urgent restoration of these vital services is not prioritized.
Impact on Healthcare
The collateral damage from the conflict has had significant implications on the healthcare system. Many hospitals in Gaza have ceased operations due to the dual blow of bombings and resource deficits. The blockade has disrupted deliveries of fuel, water, and food, affecting electricity access and leading to an upsurge in gastrointestinal illnesses and acute respiratory infections. This has been further worsened by the lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and medical care, leading to an environment conducive for the spread of infectious diseases, the brunt of which is borne by children.
Rising Concerns of Disease Outbreak
With the collapse of the health infrastructure, there is a growing fear of infectious disease outbreaks, including diarrheal diseases. Limited access to medicines, vaccination programs, safe drinking water, hygiene, and food has intensified the public health crisis. Overcrowded living conditions in shelters and the imminent winter season only add to the fears of an already grim situation being exacerbated.
Call for Cease-fire and Aid Access
The WHO has underscored the need for a cease-fire and sustained aid access in Gaza to facilitate the rebuilding of the devastated medical system. It has accentuated the need for the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law. The critical requirement for medical supplies, food, and winter necessities for Gaza's civilian population has spurred international efforts to deliver aid and support recovery. Yet, these efforts are being hampered due to restrictions and funding issues, including the suspension or restriction of aid funding by certain European countries and the European Commission.
The dire consequences of the conflict on civilian population, particularly in terms of healthcare and essential services, underline the pressing need for continued international support and intervention. The situation in Gaza is a stark reminder of the devastating effects of prolonged conflict on civilian infrastructure and public health. There is an immediate need to address the humanitarian crisis and rebuild the healthcare system to prevent further loss of life and alleviate the suffering of the Gaza population.