Can the war in Gaza trigger a global health crisis? | Experts’ Opinions

ByCatalina Russu

Can the war in Gaza trigger a global health crisis? | Experts’ Opinions

The health crisis in Gaza is worsening as the war between Hamas and Israel intensifies but the violence goes beyond inflicting the physical and mental harm usually caused in war zones. It also hampers the ongoing efforts to solve global health issues. Experts warn that this war is not just an international relations crisis but also a public health crisis that could lead to long-term consequences for humanity. Why and how can the war in Gaza become a global health crisis? Check the expert opinions cited below.

Key Takeaways:

  • Israel’s blockade of Gaza, with no access to water, fuel, electricity, and essential supplies for over a month, poses a significant risk of waterborne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid.
  • According to WHO reports (November 12), at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have lost their lives in 137 “attacks on health care” infrastructure in Gaza.
  • The war is also resulting in mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder among children, violating international conventions that protect children’s rights.
  • Expert opinion: “Conflicts have the potential to escalate into global health crises due to their profound impact on healthcare systems, chronic conditions, mental health, and overall well-being.”

DevelopmentAid: Why and how can this war become a global health crisis?

Shahid Hossain, Global Health Expert

“Ongoing wars in different regions are not only creating health challenges in the conflict zones but also posing hidden threats to health on a global scale. First of all, conflicts remove access to essential healthcare services for people in the war zone areas, especially children and senior citizens. Most importantly, children on both sides are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, including violations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN General Assembly on November 20, 1989). The war is causing immense pollution of the air and water, thus affecting the health condition of the population in neighboring countries. Probably the most significant impact is that the countries engaged in war tend to use their resources for ammunition and other military expenses which diminishes their investment in health and education resulting in a reduced commitment towards achieving sustainable development goals. We have yet to learn the magnitude of the cost to local and international health systems and the global health crisis.”

Thomas Yessoufou Carrena, Director of Studies, Registrar IRGIB-AFRICA University
Thomas Yessoufou Carrena, former Director of studies at IRGIB-AFRICA University.

“The Israel-Hamas war could become a global health crisis. Indeed, the displaced populations are at a greater risk of disease and illness. In particular, they are at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases. As access to clean water, food, and sanitation is reduced, the populations are exposed to cholera and other diseases that can rapidly spread through both women and children, causing death. Respiratory diseases often occur at increased rates during a war because shelters and camps are overcrowded. Moreover, higher malnutrition rates (both severe and acute) among children under five years of age will most likely increase. Routine immunization programs are often brought to a standstill during conflicts, leaving populations susceptible to epidemics and disease outbreaks that could otherwise have been prevented. Those who live through war face psychologically challenging situations, often being uprooted from their homes, facing food insecurity, and living in constant fear of death and injury. This situation causes damage to a person’s psychological well-being and can exacerbate existing problems. In conclusion, war has a catastrophic effect on the health and well-being of people, destroying households and often disrupting the development of the social and economic fabric of nations which can at any time spread to other countries.”

Mohammed Liswi, humanitarian manager

“Wars, especially those arising from chronic conflicts in the Middle East, have repercussions far beyond the immediate battle zones. Destruction and instability often reduce access to vital medication and healthcare, exacerbating chronic conditions and delaying medical interventions. Displaced individuals, migrating to unfamiliar regions, can strain public health systems that are unprepared for their arrival. They may introduce diseases, causing outbreaks in their new locations. Inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene conditions in conflict zones or refugee settlements can lead to waterborne diseases and deteriorate general health. The mental trauma experienced in conflict zones also resonates in diaspora communities globally, impacting mental health services. Moreover, global psychological well-being can be influenced by media portrayals of these conflicts, inducing anxiety and stress. These challenges demonstrate how localized conflicts can rapidly evolve into global health crises.”

See also: Dissecting the impact of the Israel-Hamas war on the region and international aid flows | Experts’ Opinions

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