29 February 2024,   11:57
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WHO warns of rising trend of communicable disease in UN shelters in Gaza

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that there is a rising trend in communicable disease notifications in UN shelters in Gaza, citing data from the UN Palestinian refugee agency or UNRWA.

According to the agency, over 1.1 million are taking shelter in UNRWA facilities.

Data indicates a “massive increase” in some communicable diseases like diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, skin infections, and hygiene-related conditions like lice, WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris told a UN press briefing.

Harris pointed to a 45-fold increase in diarrhea and a 14-fold climb in bloody diarrhea in comparison to 2022.

Unfavorable shelter conditions like overcrowding with shortages of water, food, and fuel are the main factors of this massive rise in communicable diseases, she said. She noted that on Friday, the WHO carried out an assessment mission to UNRWA shelters in northern Gaza and noted “the lack of waste collection around the shelters, the extremely limited access to medical consultations, no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene, and no food”.

“A very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants have been reported, with no treatment available for them”, she said, adding that patients suffering from chronic conditions lack access to the critical drugs they need.

The spokesperson also said there are 350,000 people living with non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. Harris said there are 50,000 pregnant women in the strip with 5,500 expected to deliver in the next month, and an average of 183 births per day. Twenty of these babies will be born needing specialized care, she said.

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