Intense heat in Gaza could worsen health crisis for Palestinians, WHO warns

Palestinians cool off animals amid soaring heat, in Gaza

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization warned on Friday that scorching heat in the Gaza Strip could exacerbate health problems for Palestinians displaced by Israeli bombardment and heavy fighting between its forces and Hamas militants.

The World Food Programme has warned that a massive public health crisis is looming in Gaza due to the lack of clean water, food and medical supplies.

"We've seen massive displacement over the last weeks and months, and we know that combination and the heat can cause a rise in diseases," said Richard Peeperkorn, WHO's representative for Gaza and the West Bank.

"We have water contamination because of hot water, and we will have much more food spoilage because of the high temperature. We will get insect mosquitoes and flies, dehydration, heat stroke."

Extreme heat has killed hundreds worldwide as the northern hemisphere summer begins.

Peeperkorn said in Gaza, due to poor water and sanitation conditions, the number of cases of diarrhoea were 25 times higher than usual.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the WHO.

The WHO has been unable to carry out medical evacuations from Gaza since the closure of the Rafah crossing in early May.

Peeperkorn said an estimated 10,000 patients still required medical evacuation from Gaza, half of whom are suffering from ailments related to the war.

Israel's air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to health authorities there.

Israel launched its assault after Hamas fighters stormed across the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)