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WHO warns of 'imminent public health catastrophe' in Gaza

October 31, 2023 at 1:36 pm

Relatives of the Palestinians, who lost their lives after Israeli attacks, mourn as the bodies are carried for burial from Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital on the 25th day Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on October 31, 2023 [Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images]

A “public health catastrophe” is imminent in Gaza, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned today, amid overcrowding, mass displacement and damage to infrastructure, Reuters reported.

WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier warned of the risk of civilian deaths not directly linked to Israeli bombardment.

WHO: Attacks on healthcare since 7 Oct 2023

“It’s an imminent public health catastrophe that looms with the mass displacement, the overcrowding, the damage to water and sanitation infrastructure,” Lindmeier told reporters.

Gaza health authorities say more than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began air strikes on the enclave in response on 7 October.

The Israeli military began ground operations in Gaza last week.

Asked if people were dying from complications other than those from the bombardment, Lindmeier said: “Indeed they are.”

A spokesperson from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), James Elder, warned of the risk of infant deaths due to dehydration, with water output at five per cent of normal levels.

“So child deaths due to dehydration, particularly infant deaths due to dehydration, are a growing threat,” he said, adding that children were getting sick from drinking salty water.

About 940 children are reported missing in Gaza, he said, with some thought to be stuck beneath the rubble.

Others are suffering from trauma or severe stress, he said, such as the four-year-old daughter of a UNICEF colleague who has begun harming herself by ripping out her hair and scratching her thighs until they bleed.

The UN humanitarian office in a statement earlier today said water supplies to southern Gaza came to a halt yesterday “for unknown reasons.”

Lindmeier called for fuel to be allowed into Gaza to allow a desalination plant to operate. Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip and refuses to allow in fuel supplies, in a move rights groups have described as collective punishment; a war crime.

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