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'Gaza at risk of disease outbreaks'

After the end of fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, the Gaza Strip now faces a high risk of disease outbreaks, the chief of the WHO has said.

world Updated: Jan 20, 2009 22:26 IST

After the end of fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas militants, the Gaza Strip now faces a high risk of disease outbreaks, the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

"Right now, we very sadly see ideal conditions for outbreaks of disease," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

Addressing a session of the WHO Executive Board, Chan said the 22-day conflict in Gaza had caused a humanitarian crisis there.

"As public health professionals, we need to be deeply concerned about the health of Gaza's civilian population," she said.

According to the WHO chief, the 1.5 million people of Gaza are served by a mere 2,000 hospital beds. And these facilities have been completely overwhelmed by the emergency needs of the wounded.

Drinking water is scarce, sewage lines have been broken, and garbage is piling up. Besides, immunization, along with most routine health services, has been interrupted for more than three weeks.

"An outbreak under such conditions would be another health crisis that should not happen," she warned.

She said WHO would step up its assistance to the Palestinians as soon as access and security clearances are granted.

She also urged "frequent" opening of border crossings to allow delivery of emergency medical supplies in Gaza.

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