Where are the canaries?

I was going to talk to you about the clean water available in the Gaza Strip: try living on an average of 3 liters of water for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning, and so on. After a while, life would leave you. You have no choice but to use dirty, dangerous water wherever you find it. We could mention the epidemics that are flourishing in this narrow strip of overpopulated land, the data appear, but also the 50,000 pregnant women in this place of promiscuity with its 160 deliveries per day on average « in the midst of chaos and fighting » tells us theUNFPA (United Nations Population Fund). What hope is there for them and their newborn?

That’s for another time. The question I’m asking myself today is: why starve, starve, cut off energy sources (gas oil, electricity), destroy healthcare capacity (hospitals that haven’t yet collapsed — already 1/3 of them and 2/3 of primary care clinics — are in the process of doing so, according to international organizations). Journalists like Seymour Hersch- and he’s not the only one — try to answer this question: it’s a question of eradicating a population from its living environment, in particular by these means, ultimately causing the survivors to move elsewhere. The sheer enormity of the homes rendered uninhabitable (51% according to estimates from Palestinian sources), and of the people already internally displaced in the Gaza Strip (around 1,400,000 out of 2,200,000 people within such a small area of 40x10 km), gives vertigo and weight to those. True or false, time will tell.

Behind these questions, I think legitimate, can we factualize this?

I’ve done something simple, a curve over several days of the dead and injured, to see if things are getting worse, staying the same or getting better. Very simple and visually appealing.

Things are getting worse, especially for children. While morbidity curves (injuries) maintain a fairly constant slope, mortality curves show a real increase. Let’s not forget that these figures hide the unspeakable. Children are like canaries in a mine : they are the first to die. This signals a serious collapse of public health, including health systems, in the Gaza Strip. And this gives value to the writings and sayings of Seymour and many others. An immediate humanitarian ceasefire is an absolute necessity, as the UN Secretary General forcefully repeats.

Graphs based on data published by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health and OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). Let’s be clear: the producers of these figures say it’s  » at least « , meaning only those they can count.

Christophe de Brouwer

Honorary full professor and former chair of the School of Public Health at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. (October 25, 2023)

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