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Gaza: Heatwave brings new misery and disease risk to Rafah
Photo Courtesy: UNRWA

Gaza: Heatwave brings new misery and disease risk to Rafah

| @indiablooms | 26 Apr 2024, 03:49 pm

Unexpected blistering temperatures across Gaza have added to the daily misery faced by the enclave’s people and sparked new fears of disease outbreaks amid a lack of sufficient clean water and waste disposal, UN humanitarians said on Thursday.

The warning from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, came as some 1.2 million people continued to shelter in tents pitched in and around the enclave’s southernmost city, Rafah, with nowhere else to go.

“It is like living in a greenhouse, no-one can tolerate living inside,” the UN agency said, quoting Mustafa Radwan, formerly from Gaza City, in a social media post on X.

With temperatures hovering around 40 degrees Celsius, Rafah’s residents are acutely aware that conditions will become even more uncomfortable once summer comes, with temperatures set to reach “50℃ or 60℃”, said Mr. Radwan, who lives in a tent with eight family members.

Clean water remains scarce in Rafah and long queues are an everyday reality, Mr. Radwan continued. “Everything is a queue, everything is suffering in displacement.”

More mission access denials

In a related development, UN aid teams reported that no humanitarian missions were possible to northern Gaza on Wednesday “as the Israeli army closed its checkpoints on two roads due to troop movements”.

But the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) noted that a joint UNRWA and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) mission did reach Jabalia on Tuesday, providing medical aid and water purification assistance.

Pop-up clinic

The UN agency for Palestinians also reported successfully converting a children’s nursery into a functioning health facility in the Mawasi area of the devastated city of Khan Younis.

The pop-up clinic receives around 2,000 individuals daily and offers services ranging from chronic disease care, maternal and child health care, dental services and psychological counselling.

Demand is overwhelming

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“With the onset of summer, difficulties increase from water scarcity and overcrowding, leading to the spread of infectious diseases, skin sensitivities, lice, and other illnesses,” said Dr. Ahmed Hanouda, the clinic's director.

“We are, of course, trying to address these problems and provide services to the displaced people under these challenging circumstances based on the available resources. We look forward to offering better services and providing better facilities in the coming days,” he said.

Atrocious conditions

Asked at the regular UN daily briefing in New York about Israel’s plan which remains on the table to invade Rafah in its quest to eliminate Hamas militants, Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said a ground operation would be “a humanitarian catastrophe”.

“We’re operating in a conflict zone…we will not be a party to any forced displacement of people”, he added.

Quizzed further about the rising temperatures, he said “conditions are already atrocious. The whole system of treatment of solid waste has basically crumbled with the unimaginable sanitation impact that has on people’s health.”

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