Sewage flows in the streets of Gaza as all key sanitation services have ceased operating, raising the alarming prospect of an enormous surge of gastrointestinal and infectious diseases among the local populations – including cholera.
For Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, finding drinkable water has become close to impossible.
At a school run by the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) in Khan Younis, 33-year-old Osama Saqr attempted to fill some bottles with water for his thirsty children.
He took a sip and grimaced in disgust at the saltiness of the fluid, before letting out a long sigh.
“It’s polluted and unsuitable, but my children always drink it, there’s no alternative,” he told Al Jazeera.
Saqr’s one-year-old son has diarrhoea but he cannot find medicines in hospitals or pharmacies to treat him. “Even if I find it, the problem remains, the water is polluted and salty water, not suitable for drinking,” he said.
“I’m afraid that eventually, I’m going to lose one of my children to this poisoning.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded more than 44,000 cases of diarrhoea and 70,000 acute respiratory infections, but real numbers may be significantly higher. On Friday, the UN agency said it was extremely concerned that rains and floods during the approaching winter season will make an already dire situation even worse.