Fear of malaria rises in Rafah

A woman stand ankle deep in brackish water in a tent

Overcrowded camps for the displaced and stagnant water are fertile ground for mosquitoes and the diseases they bring. 

Ahmad AbuAbdu

Asmaa is a young woman in her twenties. She was raised in Gaza City’s Shujaiya neighborhood, where she spent her days surrounded by beautiful green spaces and the warmth of her family.

Like 1.9 million other Palestinians in Gaza, Asmaa and her family had to flee their homes under Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment.

They fled to a camp in southern Gaza and eventually sought refuge in Rafah under cover of darkness.

There, they were directed to a crowded displaced people’s camp. Asmaa’s real struggles began here.

Life in the camp is one of poverty and want. Mothers search daily for food for their hungry children, while children play in dilapidated tents with contaminated water at constant risk of disease.

Fathers do their best to provide water and food for their families, despite the constant threat of bombings.

The camp was full of mothers and children who had lost their homes. Asmaa heard many stories of mothers struggling to feed their hungry children and provide medical care to the sick as a result of the war.

Aside from the difficulties of displacement and poverty, Asmaa and others in the camp encountered a new problem: mosquito infestations. Warm nights and stagnant water in the camp made ideal breeding grounds.

Asmaa’s anxiety grew. She was pregnant and was understandably concerned about the health of her future child.

“We are searching for medical help. War and economic hardship have made life extremely difficult here,” Asmaa told The Electronic Intifada.

Asmaa cannot rest at night due to the constant noise of intense bombing.

The buzzing of Israel’s drones conspire with the buzzing of mosquitoes to make sleep difficult.


Mosquitoes are becoming a growing problem in the overcrowded confines of the camps in Rafah.

The city’s population has risen from some 230,000 people to over 1.5 million, and the city’s municipal authorities say healthcare facilities are stretched to breaking point.

Muhannad Abu Moamar of the health and environment department at the municipality, says the municipality is unable to provide pest control due to lack of resources and fuel.

The problem has worsened due to the trail of destruction caused by the Israeli military. Rubble creates a fertile environment for mosquitoes because of stagnant water from rain or leakages from water and sewage pipes.

Abu Moamar fears an increase in mosquito-borne diseases among the displaced.

Khaled al-Tayebi, an official with Gaza’s health ministry, warns of a real threat to the lives of residents and displaced people, especially vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women, due to mosquito bites.

The problem is not only the irritation and itching from mosquito bites but also the fact that mosquitoes can transmit infectious diseases. With the collapse of the health system and the spread of many infectious diseases among the displaced and residents, health officials say malaria is of growing concern.

A fellow displaced woman told Asmaa that she gave birth to an unhealthy baby and couldn’t find any care due to hospital overcrowding, leaving her struggling to care for her newborn.

The woman attempted to visit al-Helal al-Emirati hospital in Rafah City, to check on her baby’s health and her own, when she developed an irritating itch. But there were too many people waiting for care, and she left without being seen.

As summer approaches and temperatures rise, conditions are ideal for further mosquito infestations.

Gaza’s people are at a consequent growing risk of mosquito borne disease, including malaria, and Gaza’s municipalities have sent out a global alert of yet another impending health crisis in the territory.

Ahmed AbuAbdu is head of the health and environment department in a Gaza local authority and a PhD. candidate in climate change studies.