Gaza, the catastrophe is right before our eyes

Since the last post, the situation in the Gaza Strip has only worsened. Data is difficult to collect, but the Palestinian Ministry of Health publishes figures that are only a pale reflection of reality.

As of October 12, 724 children had been killed. How many today? Let’s not make macabre predictions, because they’re certainly bad, very bad. The Ministry estimates that 1,200 people are buried under the rubble caused by the bombardments, including 500 children.

 » Children victims of the Gaza crisis  die by the hundreds « headlines UNICEF(1), adding  » In just over a week, several hundred children and young people have been killed or injured. And their numbers are rising all the time… The situation is alarming. UNICEF calls for for an immediate humanitarian pause and safe access to expand and maintain vital services for children in the Gaza Strip. Every minute counts.  »

These figures and appeals for help from international bodies are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering and mortality inflicted on the entire population, i.e. the 2,200,000 inhabitants crammed into this cursed strip. This October 17, we learn that theAl Karama hospitalin Gaza nord (one of the hospitals that had been ordered to close) apparently finally had to close, not because it had been directly bombed — that’s forbidden by international law — but because the buildings adjacent to the hospital had been targeted and collapsed on top of it… In any case, the  » hospitals are dying « , the situation is catastrophic.

And no sooner had I pressed the send button than the news arrived: theAhli Arab (Baptiste) hospitalGaza’s northern region was hit hard this evening by a bombardment: more than 500 dead according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (reported by the Anadolu Ajansi newspaper), between 200 and 300 dead. according to the Times of Israel. Both parties blame each other. The news goes from horror to horror.

No water, no electricity, no food, no medicine, already about half of the displaced population (1 million people) in the most destitute, suffering a desperate situation says OCHA(2). Access to the Gaza Strip is a priority for the United Nations. The last reserves are committed npus explains UNRWA(3) in its latest report of October 16, an organization that has lost all capacity to act in the north of the Gaza Strip, where their shelters, schools, remain crowded and bombarded. In the south, the situation is just as bad, with the town of Khan Yunis also under bombardment, even though Israel had ordered the population of the north to go there (UNRWA says so, not me), … The last water desalination plant has just stopped, and fuel reserves are exhausted. People are starting to use the unclean water they find, and the dreaded water-borne diseases, particularly for children, are here: how many more deaths?

Ah yes, let’s face it, the occupier opened a water pipe for just 14% of the population for 3 hours…

The promise to open the Rafah border crossing with Egypt — for the entry of relief convoys awaiting the exit of foreigners — has so far remained a dead letter. And yet, it seems, the Americans had put all their weight into making it happen. The scales were certainly off.

Finally, Médecins sans Frontières, present in the Gaza Strip, is finally making its voice heard and calling for help. It’s never too late to do the right thing, but it’s never too late. So the situation is really serious.

I’m sorry for this litany, but I can’t see how else to do it. The public health catastrophe is right before our eyes, and we’re doing nothing, or not much. We must stop this cycle of hatred.

Christophe de Brouwer

Honorary full professor and former chair of the School of Public Health at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (October 17, 2023)

Notes et références
  1. Fonds des Nations unies pour l’enfance.
  2. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
  3. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

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