Israeli blockade in Gaza threatens to unleash cholera, other infectious disease OUTBREAKS
Now that there is no more water, fuel, electricity, food, or medicine flowing into Gaza – Israel cut them off after the October 7 Hamas attack – humanitarian groups are warning that outbreaks of cholera and other infectious diseases are likely.
“Every day I fill a bottle of water for each one and I tell them: try to manage this,” said Waseem Mushtaha to Al Jazeera about the new instructions he has given his four children, who instead of learning math and reading at school are now being taught how to ration water for their own survival.
“At the beginning, they struggled, but now they are coping.”
Mushtaha and his family are among the 1.1 million Gazans who have fled the northern part of the territory after Israel ordered them to move south. They now reside in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis with extended family and friends who opened up their doors for shelter.
Mushtaha says he personally drove his wife and children, aged eight through 15, to his aunt’s home. Meanwhile, he is continuing his work as a water and sanitation officer for the global nonprofit group Oxfam.
“People sleep on the streets, in shops, in mosques, in their cars or on the streets,” Mushtaha says about the millions of refugees pouring into southern Gaza ever since the evacuation order.
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As you might expect in such a scenario, essentials like hygiene products are now in very short supply. All these new people living in an already densely populated southern Gaza are gobbling up all the supplies from local supermarkets, and prices for what remains are rising fast.
Gaza’s desalinization facilities are selling clean drinking water for twice what it cost prior to the October 7 Hamas attack, and Mushtaha estimates that his own family could run out of water in as little as 24 hours depending on what resources are able to make it into Gaza despite the Israeli blockade.
“We will go to the market and purchase whatever is available,” he told the media humbly. “We are looking to the future with bleak eyes.”
Both Oxfam and the United Nations (UN) are warning that the collapse of water and sanitation services throughout Gaza will spark outbreaks of cholera and other deadly diseases – it is only a matter of time.
Most of Gaza’s 65 sewage pumping stations, as well as all five of its wastewater treatment facilities, have been forced to stop operations because of Israel’s actions. According to Oxfam, untreated sewage is now having to be released directly into the Mediterranean Sea, and some solid waste is even making its way into streets alongside dead bodies that still need to be retrieved.
“Desalination plants have stopped working and municipalities are unable to pump water to residential areas because of the power shortage,” reports explain.
“Some people in Gaza are relying on salty tap water from the enclave’s only aquifer, which is contaminated with sewage and seawater, or have resorted to drinking seawater. Others are being forced to drink from farm wells.”
The UN says that in Gaza right now, only three liters of clean drinking water per day is available for each living person there. That meager amount of water must stretch to not just hydrate but also cook, wash and flush the toilet.
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