Medical & Health

Oxfam warns of deadly epidemic risk as situation exacerbated by Israel’s Rafah offensive

LONDON: Israel's land operation in Rafah has further worsened the situation, pushing the Gaza Strip to the brink of a "deadly epidemic outbreak," according to a UK-based charity on Monday. In a statement, Oxfam warned that the destruction of critical water and sanitation infrastructure by the Israeli forces along with overcrowding, malnutrition, and heat brought a severe risk of epidemic outbreak to Palestinians in the besieged enclave. "The situation is further compounded by the Israeli invasion of Rafah which has forced over 350,000 people to flee to already overcrowded shelters and camps, and food and fuel are running out with the closure of border crossings," it noted. The charity said at least five of its life-saving water and sanitation projects in the Gaza Strip had been severely damaged or destroyed in the Israeli attacks since Oct. 7, 2023. "Israeli attacks since October caused at least $210M worth of damage to Gaza's water and sanitation infrastructure," added Oxfam, citing its staff on the grou nd that piles of human waste and rivers of sewage in the streets, which "people are having to jump between." "They also reported people having to drink dirty water and children being bitten by insects swarming around the sewage," said the statement, adding conditions are ripe for the outbreak of epidemics including Hepatitis A and cholera. '87% of critical water, sanitation facilities destroyed or severely damaged' Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam's Middle East director, described the situation as "desperate" with so many people in Gaza living in fear and being forced to endure "inhumane and unsanitary conditions." Citing UNICEF's analysis of satellite images, the statement mentioned that 87% of critical water and sanitation facilities have been destroyed or severely damaged in the Gaza Strip. Israel has waged an unrelenting offensive on the Gaza Strip since a cross-border attack by Hamas last Oct. 7 which killed some 1,200 people. More than 35,000 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, mostly women and ch ildren, and 78,400 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities. Over seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85% of the enclave's population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water, and medicine, according to the UN. Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January said it is "plausible" that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and ordered Tel Aviv to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. South Africa on Friday asked the ICJ to order Israel to withdraw from the southern Gaza city of Rafah as part of additional emergency measures over the war. Source: Anadolu Agency