This grim prognosis is attributed to the collapse of Gaza's health system and the dire living conditions in the region.
According to the WHO, the war has precipitated a public health disaster in the Gaza Strip. The death toll, which already exceeds 13,300 Palestinians as reported by Gaza's Health Ministry, could escalate further if the health system remains in disarray, running water is not supplied, and shelters are not rebuilt for the displaced populace.
Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the WHO, expressed her concerns at a U.N. briefing in Switzerland. "Eventually we will see more people dying from disease than we are even seeing from the bombardment if we are not able to put back (together) this health system," she said.
The scarcity of drinkable water, sanitation facilities, and medical access could potentially trigger epidemics, as displaced Palestinians are compelled to seek refuge in overcrowded homes and camps. Harris highlighted the dire situation, stating, "(There are) no medicines, no vaccination activities, no access to safe water and hygiene and no food. We saw a very high number of cases of diarrhea among infants."
The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the governing terror group in the territory, continues to endanger Palestinians, particularly those in northern Gaza. Israel's pursuit of the terrorists responsible for the deadly Oct. 7 attack, the deadliest in Israel’s history, has resulted in the shelling of Palestinian homes, schools, restaurants, and hospitals. Hamas is known to use these civilian sites for their operations, including rocket attacks and tunnel networks.
Harris voiced her concerns about the potential rise in outbreaks of infectious diseases, particularly diarrheal diseases, due to the collapse of the health infrastructure. She described the collapse of Al Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza as a "tragedy" and emphasized the urgent need to restore basic healthcare access to Palestinians. James Elder, a spokesperson from the U.N. Children's Agency in Gaza, reported that hospitals in Gaza were filled with children suffering from war wounds and gastroenteritis due to contaminated water.
"I met a lot of parents... They know exactly what their children need. They don't have access to safe water and it's crippling them," Elder said.
Senior administration officials informed Fox News that the White House is prioritizing the delivery of vaccines and other medical goods to Gaza. Efforts are also being made to ensure the supply of potable water and sanitation facilities to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as typhoid and cholera. The White House is also striving to facilitate the delivery of fuel to Gaza to restore essential services such as water desalination plants, hospitals, and waste removal.
The first of three U.S. military-led humanitarian aid flights carrying medical supplies, food, and winter items for Gaza's civilian population is scheduled to arrive in northern Egypt on Tuesday, the officials said. The aid will subsequently be delivered to Gaza by the United Nations.