From Empty Plates to Sick Wards: Hunger Fuels Devastating Disease Outbreak in Gaza


The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) global partnership, which includes WHO, released new estimates today revealing catastrophic levels of food insecurity in Gaza, with the risk of famine increasing daily.

An unprecedented 93% of the population is facing crisis levels of hunger, characterized by insufficient food and high levels of malnutrition. More alarmingly,at least one in four households are experiencing catastrophic conditions, marked by extreme food shortages and starvation.

Driven by desperation, many have resorted to selling off possessions and taking extreme measures for a simple meal. The situation is dire, with reports of starvation, destitution, and death.

WHO staff report that every single person they spoke to during recent missions to north Gaza was hungry. People in hospitals and emergency wards even approached their trucks hoping for food, highlighting the desperation gripping the territory.

Gaza is experiencing a surge in infectious diseases, with over 100,000 cases of diarrhea reported since mid-October. Half of these cases are among young children under 5, representing a 25-fold increase from pre-conflict levels.

Additionally, over 150,000 cases of upper respiratory infection and numerous cases of meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice, and chickenpox have been reported. Hepatitis is also suspected due to the appearance of jaundice in many people.

A weakened body from hunger becomes susceptible to these diseases, as it compromises the immune system and leaves the door open for infection.

Malnutrition significantly increases the risk of death from illnesses like diarrhea, pneumonia, and measles in children, especially those lacking access to essential healthcare.

Even if a child survives, malnutrition can have lifelong consequences, including stunted growth and impaired cognitive development.

Breastfeeding mothers are also at high risk of malnutrition, jeopardizing their babies’ health during a critical period. From 0 to 6 months, a mother’s milk is the best and safest source of nutrition for a baby, providing protection against nutritional deficiencies and deadly diseases like diarrhea, particularly when access to safe drinking water is limited. The rising mental health issues among women in Gaza could further impact breastfeeding rates.

Sanitation, Hygiene, and Collapsing Healthcare System Exacerbate the Crisis.

Over 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes, with over 1.4 million seeking refuge in overcrowded shelters. These conditions create a breeding ground for infectious diseases.

In Gaza today, there is only one shower for every 4,500 people and one toilet for every 220. Scarcity of clean water and increasing outdoor defecation further contribute to the spread of disease.

Tragically, ongoing conflict has severely degraded the healthcare system, limiting access to vital services for those facing the perilous combination of hunger and disease. With the health system on its knees, many lack adequate options for receiving care.

The people of Gaza, who have already endured immense suffering, now face the threat of death from starvation and diseases easily treatable with a functioning healthcare system.

This must stop.Food and other aid must be delivered in significantly greater quantities. WHO reiterates its call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

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