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Alarming Spread of Dangerous Skin Diseases Among Malnourished Children in Gaza

Photo : AFP

Over 150,000 individuals in the Palestinian territory have contracted skin diseases due to the dire conditions following the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

In Deir el-Balah, within the Palestinian Territories, Wafaa Elwan's five-year-old son struggles to sleep in the Gaza tent city where she and her seven children are currently sheltered. His persistent itching, resulting from the skin infections plaguing many in Gaza, keeps him awake. His body is covered in white and red blotches, symptomatic of the widespread skin infections ranging from scabies to chickenpox, lice, impetigo, and other rashes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that more than 150,000 people have been afflicted by these conditions since the conflict began on October 7. The living conditions for displaced Gazans, like Elwan and her family, are extremely harsh. They sleep on the ground, often on sand infested with worms, and lack basic hygiene and sanitary products. This makes it impossible to bathe and maintain cleanliness, exacerbating the spread of infections.

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Historically, children were encouraged to wash in the Mediterranean, but the war has severely polluted the sea, turning it into a hazardous mix of sewage and garbage. The WHO has recorded 96,417 cases of scabies and lice, 9,274 cases of chickenpox, 60,130 cases of skin rashes, and 10,038 cases of impetigo since the onset of the conflict.

In Deir al-Balah, pharmacist Sami Hamid runs a makeshift clinic where he sees numerous cases of chickenpox, with blisters and scabs covering children’s bodies. Without sufficient medication, Hamid resorts to using calamine lotion to alleviate their symptoms. The lack of clean water and hot weather further aggravates skin conditions, especially among children who are prone to playing outside and coming into contact with contaminated surfaces.

Mohammed Abu Mughaiseeb, the medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Gaza, highlighted that children are particularly susceptible to infections due to compromised immune systems from malnutrition. Poor hygiene in the makeshift camps, where toilets drain into open channels, fosters the spread of diseases. The WHO has also reported 485,000 cases of diarrhea, compounding the health crisis.

Currently, there are 1.9 million displaced individuals in Gaza out of a population of approximately 2.4 million, according to the United Nations. The conflict began with Hamas's attack on southern Israel on October 7, which led to 1,195 deaths, primarily civilians. Israel’s subsequent offensive has resulted in at least 37,925 deaths, also predominantly civilians, based on figures from the health ministry in Gaza, which is under Hamas control.

July 3, 2024 10:44 a.m. 420

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