Gaza Strip Vulnerable To Disease Outbreak, Says WHO Chief

by VR Sreeraman on  January 20, 2009 at 1:27 PM General Health News   - G J E 4
The densely-populated Gaza Strip has been left vulnerable to outbreaks of disease following Israel's 22-day military offensive, the head of the World Health Organization warned Monday.
 Gaza Strip Vulnerable To Disease Outbreak, Says WHO Chief
Gaza Strip Vulnerable To Disease Outbreak, Says WHO Chief

"Right now, we very sadly see ideal conditions for outbreaks of disease," WHO director general Margaret Chan said at the opening of the executive board's annual meeting.

"Densely packed and displaced populations are weakened by hunger, little power for cooking and heating, and severe psychological trauma. Drinking water is scarce, sewage lines have been broken, and garbage is piling up," she said.

"Immunization, along with most routine health services, has been interrupted for more than three weeks. An outbreak under such conditions would be another health crisis that should not happen," Chan said.

Israel started a unilateral ceasefire Sunday, while Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups called a week-long truce of their own, following a war that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, according to Gaza medics.

Hospitals in the tiny territory, which has a population of 1.5 million people, "have been completely overwhelmed by the emergency needs of the wounded," Chan said.

"Medical staff, including surgical teams, are exhausted," she said, noting that there are only 2,000 hospital beds in Gaza.

"The wounded, who number in the thousands, continue to need care. Many civilian infrastructures, including hospitals and primary care clinics, have been badly damaged or destroyed," she said.

The war has underscored "the absolute need for safe corridors to evacuate the severely wounded," Chan said.

"We have seen the absolute need to protect civilians, but also to ensure the safety of health workers, hospitals, ambulances and supplies for humanitarian relief."

Source: AFP

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