Infections increase in Gaza

Hospitals have to deal both with injuries and a rise in diseases. 

Ali Hamad APA images

Becoming ill during a war can be painful and disorientating.

I know this from experience. Recently, I contracted pneumonia.

I got some medicine through a clinic at a school that is now a shelter for displaced people.

My body did not respond to the treatment for some time. It is highly likely that my immune system has been compromised due to poor nutrition.

Eventually, I recovered. But I feel that I could easily become unwell again.

There are many others with similar stories.

Husam is a 13-year-old. He and his family have been living recently in a tent.

He spoke of suddenly feeling “very tired and weak.” He lost his appetite and vomited frequently.

After tests at a hospital, Husam was diagnosed with hepatitis A, a virus transmitted by dirty water.

Pools of sewage can be found around the tents where Husam’s family and others have been living in Rafah, southern Gaza.

Husam had to stay in his tent for several weeks, with a nurse monitoring him.

“I took medicine until I got better,” he said. “But I do not feel in good health at all.”

The only water he has is polluted. He still drinks it so that he does not become dehydrated.

“No protection”

Following Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah which began earlier this week, the city now has only one functioning hospital.

Known as the Kuwaiti hospital, it has just 16 beds.

Speaking before the invasion occurred, Jamal al-Hams, a doctor in that hospital, said, “There are huge numbers of people displaced from all areas of the Gaza Strip concentrated in Rafah. They are living in very difficult conditions.”

“There is no protection from viruses,” he said. “And the food and nutrition available is not sufficient. Aid in the form of canned food does not meet people’s needs.”

Before this week’s invasion began, the hospital was treating about 1,000 people with infectious diseases per day, according to al-Hams. That figure did not include people rushed to the hospital having just been injured in Israeli attacks.

The European Gaza Hospital – located in the southern city of Khan Younis – is overwhelmed, too.

Amal noticed that her son had a high temperature. After a few days, it was confirmed that he had hepatitis A.

“I kept my child away from his siblings so that he didn’t give the infection to them,” Amal said. “I cannot do more for him.”

Amal and her family are living in a tent at the hospital.

“There is not enough water and there are no clean bathrooms,” she said, adding that vast numbers of displaced people are using the same bathrooms.

“If we survive the bombing, we will not survive disease and pollution,” she said.

By some estimates, 30,000 people are now sheltering at the European Hospital. Pools of sewage can be seen in its grounds and a great deal of garbage has accumulated both inside and around the hospital.

There is a foul odor and a major problem with mosquitos. The hospital’s administration has warned that services could collapse at any moment.

Ruwaida Amer is a journalist based in Gaza.