Lack of water, sanitation and PHC cause explosion of infectious disease in Gaza, threaten public health
Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
August 02, 2014
The people of Gaza face enormous barriers to accessing primary health care, with only 10 of the government’s 56 Primary Health Care clinics operational, eight of UNRWA’s 22 clinics open, and most NGO clinics closed.
The majority of displaced persons have no access whatsoever to primary health care services.
This is at a time when there are urgent public health problems arising from the Israeli offensive threatening the health of the entire population.
The destruction of the sole Gaza power plant leaves sewage pumps incapacitated. The lack of electricity combined with the destruction of at least 16 water wells has left 1.8 million people without access to water, according to the latest OCHA report.
It also reports that some 10,000 homes have been completely annihilated, and 450,000 people forcibly displaced, with 250,000 of them seeking shelter in UN facilities only able to cope with a fifth of that number, and another 30,000 in government schools and institutions.
The over-crowding and lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities has seen the incidence of viral meningitis skyrocket from five per day, to 53 cases today.
Diarrhoea and scabies are rampant in the overcrowded shelters, with clean drinking water all but impossible to obtain.
Hospitals are also coming under enormous pressure, with large numbers of displaced treating them as safe havens. This has created problems of electricity overload, garbage, high water consumption, and sanitation crises.
Decomposing bodies whose retrieval has been prevented by Israeli shelling and aerial attacks continue to pose a significant risk to public health.
Although dozens have been retrieved during brief ceasefires, an unknown number, possibly in the hundreds, still remain in Shujeiyah, Beit Hanoun, Khuza’a, and Rafah and will significantly impact on the health of the population as displaced persons return to their neighbourhoods.
The Ministry of Health Gaza calls on national and international organisations to immediately address the looming public health crisis by:
1) restoring the electricity supply as a matter of urgency;
2) providing adequate water & sanitation facilities in shelters for displaced persons;
3) providing Hygiene Kits to displaced persons;
4) restoring the sewage pumping capacity as a matter of urgency;
5) providing access to potable water to all residents of Gaza;
6) restoring water wells as a matter of urgency;
7) providing longer-term shelters for the tens of thousands of displaced persons whose homes have been completely destroyed, until rebuilding is possible, and
8) restoring Gaza’s four evacuated hospitals, especially the Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital and Al Durrah Paediatric Hospital, to operational capacity as soon as possible.