GENEVA: The United Nations on Tuesday warned that the fuel shortages and deteriorating sanitation conditions in the Gaza Strip are creating a dire situation that could lead to a mass disease outbreak. UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, expressed serious concerns about the potential collapse of sanitation services in the besieged Palestinian territory, emphasizing the heightened risk of disease spread.
UNICEF spokesman James Elder, speaking at a press briefing in Geneva via video-link from Cairo, highlighted the critical issues contributing to the escalating crisis. “Without enough fuel, we will see the collapse of sanitation services. So we have then, on top of the mortars and the bombs, a perfect storm for the spread of disease. It is a perfect storm for tragedy,” Elder stated.
The Gaza Strip is grappling with a desperate lack of water, widespread faecal contamination in densely populated areas, inadequate latrines, and severe constraints on hand-washing, personal hygiene, and cleaning. The situation is further exacerbated by the displacement of an estimated 800,000 children from their homes in the enclave amid the Israeli bombardments.
UN Warns of More Loss of Lives in Gaza
Elder emphasized the potential for a broader loss of life in Gaza, particularly among children, if access to water and sanitation remains restricted. “If children’s access to water and sanitation in Gaza continues to be restricted and insufficient, we will see a tragic yet entirely avoidable surge in the number of children dying,” he warned.
Since October 7, more than 13,300 innocent Palestinians, including thousands of children, have been killed in the Israeli military bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, the territory’s health ministry.
The aftermath of the conflict led to the disruption of vital services, including water, electricity, fuel, and food supplies, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the densely populated and impoverished territory.
UNICEF is particularly alarmed about the risk of a cholera outbreak in Gaza, with fears of a significant increase in child deaths if such an outbreak occurs. Cholera, transmitted through contaminated food or water, has not been detected in Gaza thus far.