UN warns accumulated waste in Gaza poses ‘catastrophic’ environmental, health risks

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) warned Thursday of “catastrophic” environmental and health risks in the Gaza Strip amid an accumulation of waste in populated areas in the battered enclave.

“As of 9 June, over 330,000 tons of waste have accumulated in or near populated areas across Gaza, posing catastrophic environmental and health risks,” UNRWA said in a statement.

“Children rummage through trash daily.”

The UN agency renewed its call for a cease-fire in the Palestinian enclave.

“Unimpeded humanitarian access and cease-fire now are crucial to restore humane living conditions,” it added.

Israel has faced international condemnation amid its continued brutal offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7, 2023 attack by Hamas despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire.

More than 37,200 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, most of them women and children, and more than 84,900 others injured, according to local health authorities.

Eight months into the Israeli war, vast tracts of Gaza lay in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, whose latest ruling ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded on May 6.

The UN relief chief on Wednesday warned about the “preventable scourage” of famine, saying: “More than one million people are expected to face death and starvation by the middle of July.”

Martin Griffiths stated “Conflicts in Sudan, Gaza and beyond are raging out of control,” stressing that the “war is pushing millions of people to the brink of starvation.”

Emphasizing that “only technicalities prevent famines from being declared, as people are already dying of hunger,” Griffiths added: “Famine in the 21st century is a preventable scourge.”

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