Contaminated and scarce water owing to Israel’s brutal siege and bombing of infrastructure leads to death and disease.
A Palestinian woman bathes her son with water from a tank filled by a charity inside their dwelling in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip July 3, 2017 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
Sandy Tolan, Al Jazeera, 29 Oct 2018
This article is the first of a two-part series on Gaza’s water crisis. The second, which examines solutions to Gaza’s water and health catastrophe, was published on Tuesday, October 30.
Gaza – The unshaven doctor with circles under his eyes enters the children’s ward at Al Nassar hospital in Gaza City. It’s a Thursday evening, almost the weekend. The ward is bleak and eerily quiet, but for the occasional wail of an infant.
At each cubicle, sectioned off by curtains, it’s a similar image: A baby lies alone in a bed, hooked up to tubes, wires and a generator; a mother sits in silent witness at the bedside.
Dr Mohamad Abu Samia, the hospital’s director of paediatric medicine, exchanges a few quiet words with one mother, then gently lifts the infant’s gown, revealing a scar from heart surgery nearly half the length of her body.
At the next cubicle, he attends to a child suffering from severe malnutrition. She lies still, her tiny body connected to a respirator. Because electricity runs only four hours a day in Gaza, the baby must stay here, where generators keep her alive.
“We are very busy,” the overwhelmed doctor says. “Babies suffering from dehydration, from vomiting, from diarrhoea, from fever.” The skyrocketing rate of diarrhoea, the world’s second largest killer of children under five, is reason enough for alarm.
But in recent months Dr Abu Samia has seen sharp rises in gastroenteritis, kidney disease, paediatric cancer, marasmus – a disease of severe malnutrition appearing in infants – and “blue baby syndrome”, an ailment causing bluish lips, face, and skin, and blood the colour of chocolate.
Before, the doctor says, he saw “one or two cases” of blue baby syndrome in five years. Now it’s the opposite – five cases in one year.