The Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip has turned a large part of the besieged Palestinian enclave into a pile of rubble, with people in desperate need of water and other basic necessities amid a total blockade of the enclave.
People have been forced to dig wells near the sea to fetch water as Gaza – home to 2.3 million people – is facing a shortage of water as well as food. Generators are powering hospitals after Israel cut electricity following the Hamas attack that killed 1,400 Israelis. The hospitals have few hours of fuel left.
“Food is running out, warehouses are all empty. In the few supermarkets that are open, most of the shelves are bare. There is also a shortage of water,” said Al Jazeera’s Safwat Kahlout from Gaza.
Here’s what’s to know about the current struggle for medical care, food and water in Gaza:
In a press conference on Tuesday, Juliette Touma, director of communications at the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) said five trucks of fuel the organization had in Gaza were sent to various health facilities.
Despite telling people to head south for safety, overnight Israeli bombardments in Gaza’s south have killed 71 people and injured many, sending another stream of patients to overworked medical teams that are lacking essential supplies.
“There are around 2,000 patients served by 21 hospitals in north Gaza, and we better keep them there, otherwise if we move them it means that we are issuing a death certificate for them,” said Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
Blood banks have only two weeks’ worth of supply left, said Dr Richard Peeperkorn, WHO in Occupied Palestine Representative
Painkillers have run out. Staff from Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) have reported that wounded and sick patients are screaming in pain while they also face the looming threat of bombardment.
Essential services such as dialysis have been discontinued.
With some hospitals destroyed by the bombardment, and others being ordered to evacuate or running out of power, 20 of 23 governmental hospitals are partially operational and are treating an average of 1,000 patients a day – well above their capacity, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA.
In eastern Khan Younis, the water supply was resumed by Israel but has had little effect. A lack of fuel and damaged pipelines have made it difficult to transport and pump the water.
The UN also said that parts of southern Gaza received water for only three hours on Tuesday, which only 14 percent of the population in the Strip benefitted from.
Water consumption across all sources has dipped to three liters for each person per day, according to OCHA, which is increasingly concerned of dehydration.
The primary suppliers of water are unregulated, private vendors running small desalination and purification plants on solar energy. This also comes at a cost to a population that is already mostly below the poverty line.
Some people’s desperate search for drinking water has also led them to begin digging wells near the sea or to consume tap water from Gaza’s only aquifer, which is contaminated with sewage and seawater, according to Reuters.
“Concerns over dehydration and waterborne diseases are high given the collapse of water and sanitation services, including today’s shutdown of Gaza’s last functioning seawater desalination plant,” the UNRWA said in a statement on Tuesday.
The electricity blackout and Israeli air strikes have affected what used to be Gaza’s drinking water sources – one desalination plant that shut down, six water wells, three water pumping stations, and one water reservoir – which collectively served more than 1,100,000 people.