Palestinian Territory – Summertime’s sharp rise in temperature, coupled with high humidity, dry weather, and the proliferation of insects and rodents, poses a major risk to displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.An increase in fatalities and the spread of disease has recently killed or otherwise affected these refugees, worsening the suffering of people whose lives are already in jeopardy as a result of Israel’s genocidal war against them, which is ongoing for the seventh consecutive month.

The Israeli-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip puts Palestinian civilians in real danger, especially those who are more vulnerable. The extreme heat and unfavourable living conditions, such as overcrowded shelter centres or nylon tents devoid of basic supplies, compound the effects of fear, hunger, and dehydration.

The oppressive heat adds to the daily suffering ofPalestinian refugees in the Strip. These individuals face severe water scarcity and significant environmental hazards given the collapse of sewage systems, lack of service infrastructure, and waste buildup that has accelerated the spread of infectious diseases and issues resulting in skin allergies.

Living in tents or overcrowded shelters under appalling environmental and health conditions, displaced Palestinians are left to face their fate alone as they are exposed to excessive heat and scorching heat waves. Israel’s genocide has forced more than 1.7 million Palestinians to flee their homes in the northern regionsof the Strip in search of a safe refuge in the south, amidadditional waves of displacement in the southern governorates.

The Israeli army has been ordering the illegal evacuation of roughly 246 square kilometres, or roughly 67% of the Gaza Strip’s total area, since 7 October 2023. This covers every area north of the Gaza Valley, whose citizens were told to leave in late October, as well as certain areas south of the Gaza Valley that have been under constant evacuation orders from the Israeli army since 1 December 2023.

The humanitarian and health crisis in the Gaza Strip has claimed many lives as a result of horrific conditions in camps and shelters, the intensity of heat waves, and the spread of illnesses among residents, particularly children and members of other vulnerable populations.

One of these lives belonged to Malak Saed Al-Yazji, a 5-month-old infant. She died on 25 April 2024 after her family was forcibly evacuated to the southern city of Rafah, where the family had to live in a nylon tent. The extreme heat wave that struck the refugee camp, which was devoid of basic supplies like water, and the resulting physical stress and trauma destroyed the baby’s health.

The victim’s father, 40-year-old Saed Khalil Al-Yaziji, said that the family was forced to evacuate from their neighbourhood of Beit Hanoun during the early days of Israel’s genocide. They relocated first to the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, and then to Rafah.

He stated that they had been living in a tent in Rafah since 23 December 2023, three days after Malak was born, and that before her condition worsened, his child had not appeared to have any health issues. He took her to the Emirati Field Hospital, where she was proclaimed dead. Malak was subsequently taken to Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital, where a report was later released indicating that her death was caused by elevated temperature and a very weak heartbeat.

Lara Grace Al-Sayegh, 19, also died on 25 April because of the extreme heat. Al-Sayegh was attempting to escape from Gaza City to Rafah. At the time of her death, her mother was in a coma due to the same reason. 

In the midst of the ongoing Israeli genocide, 10s of thousands of Palestinian civilians face greater threats than ever before from infectious and transmitted diseases, health risks, and the potential for deadly diseases to spread as temperatures rise.

Hoor Iyad Al-Absi died on 11 April from hepatitis contracted from pollution and crowding after she and her family were forced to evacuate to Rafah. She was admitted to the European Hospital, and was a patient for five days before the disease progressed to a degree of 18; she then passed away from complications brought on by her illness and lack of access to adequatemedical care.

A 27-year-old man, Anas Abdullah Karaz, also passed away due to hepatitis, he died on 24 April

According to Dr Ahmed Al-Naqris, an internal medicine specialist at Rafah’s Abu Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, the hepatitis A virus is spreading at an unprecedented rate—a result of the dire circumstances in the Strip and extreme overcrowding there, particularly in Rafah.

Due to the effects of sewage spreading among the displaced, overcrowding, poor hygiene, and malnutrition, he explained that in the last four weeks, five to six cases per day had been reported in just one Rafah health centre. He noted that symptoms of dehydration, vomiting, and diarrhoea were rapidly increasing in patients, due to lack of access to necessary medical care and the heavy burden on hospitals and medical facilities.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor reiterates that, in addition to the Israeli army’s ceaseless air, land, and sea attacks, the Gaza Strip’s population is dying from infectious diseases and epidemics brought on by contaminated water; overcrowding; high temperatures; a collapsed health system; a shortage of sterilisation supplies and medicine; and an accumulation of solid waste throughout the Strip.

The genocidal war that Israel has waged against the people of the Gaza Strip for seven months now has resulted in a public health catastrophe that has spread and is getting worse. Meanwhile, the Israeli army has continued to destroy every aspect of life in the Strip through its military attacks and siege, ruining what little remains of the functioning health system and preventing the populace from receiving basic medical care. Israel’s army has also been preventing humanitarian aid from entering the Strip—aid that is not only essential for containing epidemics and communicable diseases, but also for limiting their effects as swiftly as possible.

Euro-Med Monitor adds that, as a result of the ongoing, devastating Israeli military attacks alone, health and environmental disasters are rapidly worsening. This has disastrous effects on both the general environment and public health, especially for vulnerable groups including children, newborn babies, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses.

As the temperature in the Gaza Strip rises steadily due to the shifting seasons, the majority of the major water pipelines remain broken, the sewage systems severely damaged, and the population receiving far less clean water than it requires. Many people are even compelled to drink unclean water.

The World Health Organisation warned months ago about a comprehensive health and environmental catastrophe facing the residents of the Gaza Strip, linking the spread of diseases like cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, and hepatitis to contaminated water and the degradation of the sewage system.

Due to a scarcity of fuel brought on by the complete power outage imposed on the Strip by Israel, sewage and water desalination facilities have had to close. Thisclosure raises the possibility of bacterial infections spreading, as typhoid, polio, dysentery, and diarrhoea can all be spread by drinking contaminated water.

The health system’s near-total collapse, the absence of integrated hospitals in the Gaza City and North Gaza governorates, and the intense strain on the few hospitals that are still open in the southern part of the Strip all pose an unprecedented threat to residents.

In order to save the lives of civilians—who should beprotected by international humanitarian law and the rules of war—the international community must pressure Israel for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the lifting of the strict siege on the enclave, which is a collective punishment and a war crime in itself. Above all, Israel’s crime of genocide in the Strip must be stopped as rapidly as possible, in order to save what can be saved there.

The international community must guarantee the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, including the entry of all basic food and non-food items required to respond to the environmental and health crisis in a timely, safe, and effective manner. This includes allowing the entry of materials into the northern Gaza Strip, where they will be used to construct makeshift showers, housing, and toilets for Palestinians who have been displaced.

In addition to ensuring the entry of enough fuel to operate the water and sanitation infrastructure, including water desalination stations and water wells, pressure should be applied to Israel to allow the entryof the necessary materials for repair and rehabilitation work on civilian infrastructure. These services are essential to the civilian population’s survival in the Gaza Strip, and to protect them from the looming threat of further health disasters.