Gaza is at a critical point in its fight against disease outbreaks, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Of the 36 hospitals in Gaza, 22 are out of action and overcrowded schools and other “collective centers” are housing 800,000 people. Skin infections such as scabies, jaundice, and diarrhea have been reported as a result of poor sanitation and overcrowding.
The situation is dire, with one toilet serving several hundred people and “open defecation” being common practice. This has led to an increase in chest infections, respiratory infections, and cases of jaundice that give concern for hepatitis. The WHO is currently working with local authorities to trace the parents of 31 premature babies evacuated from al-Shifa hospital and taken to southern Gaza. Many of these babies are very low in weight and have serious infections.
According to Richard Brennan, regional emergency director for the WHO, the next few weeks will be “very tough indeed.” Many families are subsisting on only one meal a day. Despite this challenging situation, Mr. Brennan described the evacuation of the premature babies as one of the few good news stories of the war so far. However, he also noted that they may travel on to Egypt in the next day or two depending on their condition. While Mr. Brennan expressed hope that they would be reunited with their families soon, he added that many are very low in weight and all have serious infections with 11 being classed as critical condition.