Mounds of solid waste and sewage openly flowing in the streets are exacerbating health hazards in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, with air pollution adding to the toxic environment, according to aid workers and civilians in the area.
“Everywhere in Rafah, if you walk, you will see a lot of solid waste and a lot of water sewage building up on the street,” said Salwa Tibi, 53, who works at the humanitarian agency CARE International. “You will find a lot of diseases in the shelters.”
Despite the hazards, children in desperate search of food can be seen picking scraps from rubbish piles, Tibi said.
Israel’s siege of the Palestinian enclave has collapsed waste collection and disposal services, according to the United Nations relief agency UNRWA, and the scarcity of clean drinking water and toilets has created an “explosively dangerous” environment for the spread of disease, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Thursday.
Gazans also describe air pollution caused by smoke from people burning wood instead of fuel, supplies of which have been largely cut off from the territory.
“My father is sick because of air pollution, smoke and gas,” a displaced civilian in Rafah, who wished to remain anonymous, told CNN. “Influenza diseases are widespread due to the weather and the lack of facilities in the tents and rooms of the displaced.”