Monday, February 26, 2024

Palestinian health ministry and WHO say diseases including chicken pox, meningitis and other infections spread in Gaza

Diseases including chicken pox, meningitis and upper respiratory tract infections are spreading in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian and international medical authorities have cautioned, as living conditions deteriorate due to the ongoing Israeli siege and offensive.

Roughly 160,000 to 165,000 cases of diarrhea have been recorded amongst children under the age of five, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official told a briefing Tuesday, describing the figure as “much more” than normal.

Cases of impetigo, meningitis, and jaundice have also been recorded in the enclave, according to Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in the occupied Palestinian territories. WHO is trying to set up mobile labs in Gaza to analyze samples for jaundice, Peeperkorn added.

He warned that cramped living conditions are contributing to disease spread.

About 80% of the population has been displaced as the Israeli military instructs hundreds of thousands of people to move into ever smaller areas of Gaza amid the Israel Defense Forces ground offensive against Hamas. Medicines and other vital medical supplies have been choked off by the closure of Gaza’s border to all but a trickle of aid.

More than 130,000 cases of respiratory tract infections and 35,000 cases of skin rashes have been recorded, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said in a report published Monday.

At least 4,395 cases of chickenpox, 17,511 cases of lice and 19,325 cases of scabies have been recorded, according to the report.

The spread of diseases has created additional pressures for the health system in Gaza which WHO’s Peeperkorn described as being “on its knees”.

Only 11 out of the enclave’s 36 hospitals are even partially functional, Peeperkorn said in the briefing, emphasizing the challenges posed by short staffing and surging patient numbers.

“The doctors are really forced to prioritize who receives care and who doesn’t. And they are treating many of the serious cases actually straight away in the corridors or on the floor or even in the chapel,” he added.

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