Bloody diarrhea, jaundice, acute hepatitis and respiratory infections. These are just some of the diseases spreading in the Gaza Strip, where the World Health Organization (WHO) says the health system is “on its knees and collapsing.”
As the war between Israel and Hamas enters its third month, medics and aid groups are sounding alarm bells on the humanitarian situation in the besieged enclave – where the United Nations is worried that more people may end up dying of diseases than from bombs and missiles.
The coastal territory – which the Hamas militant group controls – has been under complete siege by Israel since the beginning of Israel’s war with Hamas, when the Palestinian group launched an October 7 attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 240 others, according to Israeli authorities.
Most of the Strip has run out of food, potable water, electricity and medical supplies as hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians crowd into small spaces to shelter from Israel’s bombs.
Apart from foreign nationals and a small number of injured Palestinians, almost no one has been able to escape Gaza, where more than 2 million people remain trapped.
More than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the fighting broke out, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the enclave said Monday.
Here’s what we know about the potential for disease to spread in the territory.
How has the healthcare system been affected by the war?
Local doctors and the UN have for weeks been warning of deadly outbreaks, with the WHO last month saying that the crisis in Gaza is a “recipe for epidemics.”
In remarks to WHO member countries, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Sunday said that only 14 hospitals out of 36 in Gaza are functional, with the two main hospitals in the south operating at three times their capacity.
Only two are left operating north of Wadi Gaza, he said, which Israel had asked some 1.1 million people to evacuate south of as it began its ground operation on October 13. Just 1,400 hospital beds are left, he added, with medical facilities running out of supplies while acting as makeshift shelters for the displaced.