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Gazans Face Health And Environmental Disaster

Amidst ongoing conflicts spanning over eight months and recurrent wars, environmental challenges in Gaza, particularly concerning waste management and sewage, are further complicated. These environmental problems in Gaza are aggravated by economic and political restrictions resulting from the Israeli siege. Gazans face severe shortages in infrastructure and basic services due to the current war, leading to waste accumulation and disruptions in sewage systems.


Infrastructure Destruction and Targeted Attacks

During ongoing conflicts, destroyed infrastructure becomes a primary target for Israeli attacks, exacerbating the environmental situation. Israeli airstrikes deliberately target water treatment plants, desalination plants, and sewage facilities, causing the leakage of hazardous materials into soil and groundwater, resulting in continuous pollution and public health risks.

Waste management is one of the prominent environmental challenges in Gaza, where waste is either collected in open sites or burnt unsafely, emitting toxic gases and harmful emissions, contributing to increased air pollution levels and affecting air quality.

Between October 2023 and April 2024, the Israeli occupation army dropped tens of thousands of bombs on the Gaza Strip, leading to the destruction or damage of approximately 50% to 62% of buildings by January 2024. According to the United Nations Environment Program, Israeli bombing resulted in the production of 37 million tons of debris and hazardous materials, primarily including human remains and bombs.

Results announced by the United Nations Environment Program indicate that the severe bombing of populated areas in Gaza contributes to long-term soil and groundwater contamination. This is due to the release of hazardous materials from ammunition and damaged buildings, such as asbestos, fuel, and industrial chemicals, into the air, soil, and groundwater.


Impact on Waste Management and Sewage

During a 150-day period starting from October 7, accumulated solid waste in Gaza exceeded 70,000 tons, with 60 unofficial waste dumps established in various parts of central and southern Gaza. Over the same period, Israel cut fuel supplies to Gaza, leading to power outages and the inability of sewage treatment plants to receive water. As a result, nearly 100,000 cubic meters of sewage were discharged into the sea daily, causing groundwater pollution with pollutants and toxic substances.

Municipal chiefs in various areas of Gaza, such as Mohammed Musleh, the head of the Municipality of Al-Mughazi Camp in central Gaza, have spoken about environmental disasters in the strip. Musleh described the impact of Israeli warplanes bombing main streets and sewage networks, resulting in infrastructure damage and sewage overflow, exacerbating the waste and sewage management problem.

Musleh attempted to describe the results of the war on the area where he resides, saying, “As a result of the war and its consequences, a large waste dump was formed west of Al-Mughazi Camp, very close to residential areas. This dump was formed because the municipality was unable to transport the waste to the main dump east of the camp due to the security situation in that area, and the Israeli occupation prevented municipal crews from reaching there. The dump contains large quantities of waste and requires treatment, spraying, and burial. Due to the high temperature, the dump catches fire, and municipal capabilities are weak, with many obstacles to extinguishing the fire, and all these issues will greatly affect the health of citizens.”

Viewing from another perspective, environmental disasters in the strip branch into another trend, notably a sewage problem resulting from war, leading to severe health consequences. Overcrowding inside and outside shelter centers, coupled with poor sewage systems, has led to rampant environmental pollution. Sewage pollution has contributed to the emergence of diseases such as viral hepatitis and other viral diseases, as well as severe food contamination due to water shortages for washing, resulting in the spread of diseases.

Moreover, contamination of washing and laundry water has led to the spread of skin diseases, including scabies, while contamination of drinking water has resulted in severe gastrointestinal infections, fatigue, and diarrhea.


Appeal for Solutions and Health Statistics

Dr. Nasreen Ibrahim Al-otty, head of the Pediatrics Department at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, highlighted the proliferation of diseases and epidemics among children due to war consequences, appealing to competent authorities to find solutions to water pollution, waste spreading, and poor sewage management, especially in overcrowded shelter centers.

Since mid-October 2023, more than 33,551 cases of diarrhea have been reported, with over half of these cases involving children under the age of five. This represents a significant increase compared to the monthly average of fewer than a thousand cases of diarrhea in children under five in 2021 and 2022. Additionally, 8,944 cases of scabies and lice, 1,005 cases of chickenpox, 12,635 cases of dermatitis, and 54,866 cases of upper respiratory infections were recorded. On the other hand, death toll in Gaza increased to 35,303.

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