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Gaza flooding latest disaster to hit desperate Palestinians

UN humanitarian affairs coordination office OCHA said that many areas in the enclave have been flooded, “worsening the struggle of displaced Palestinians”, while UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini was due to brief journalists in Geneva on the situation on Thursday, following his most recent visit to Gaza.

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Almost 1.9 million people in the enclave have been uprooted by the violence and more than half have sought safety in the southern town of Rafah. UN Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) shelters in the south of the Strip are nine times over capacity and scores of people live outdoors, exposed to the harsh weather, or in makeshift shelters.

Water and sanitation emergency

OCHA said that in the overcrowded shelters, sewage cannot be managed. Combined with the flooding and the accumulation of waste, the conditions have attracted insects, mosquitoes and rats, further compounding risks of disease spread.

Earlier this week the Gaza health authorities said that they had documented 360,000 cases of infectious diseases in shelters and that the actual numbers could be higher.

Meanwhile on Wednesday humanitarian partners providing water, sanitation and hygiene support to Gaza’s population reported an urgent need for construction materials to fix damaged water pipelines. 

“Inability to provide repairs could result in water being cut off from certain areas in the south of Gaza”, OCHA said.

Hospital raid continues

Kamal Adwan Hospital, in Beit Lahiya north of Gaza City was raided by Israeli troops on Wednesday for the second consecutive day, OCHA said, “with reports of mass arrests and ill-treatment of people who they have detained”. 

According to OCHA five doctors and all the female staff detained the previous day were released from custody but the hospital’s director and some 70 other medical staff “remain detained in an unknown location outside of the hospital”. UN health agency WHO expressed concern about the raid and urged the protection of patients and staff inside the hospital.

Women and girls disproportionately affected

UN-appointed independent rights experts sounded the alarm on Thursday over the “tragic consequences” of the conflict for women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel. 

The experts, including members of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, expressed serious concern over the hostage-taking of Israeli women and girls by Hamas during its terror attacks on 7 October and over “increasing allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Hamas and other armed groups against women and girls in Israel” that day, calling for the claims to be investigated and for perpetrators to be held accountable. 

The experts also deplored the disastrous impact of the conflict on the health, education and livelihood of women and girls in the Strip. Since 7 October 2,784 women in Gaza have become widows and new heads of households.

UN-appointed independent experts hold their mandate from the Human Rights Council and are not UN staff members, nor do they receive a salary for their work.

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