RAMALLAH, 9 January 2009 (IRIN) - The total halt to vaccinations in Gaza since the Israeli offensive began on 27 December could result in epidemics, a risk increased by Gaza’s high population density and dire living conditions, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on 8 January.
"If vaccinations are stopped for one or two weeks this is enough to cause a widespread outbreak of avoidable diseases - such as measles, hepatitis and polio - amongst children and the larger population," WHO health officer Mahmoud Daher told IRIN by telephone from Gaza. "Stopping the vaccinations has serious implications for children in Gaza," UNICEF spokesperson Merixie Mercato based in Jerusalem told IRIN.
An estimated one million people in Gaza, including 560,000 children, are living with minimal water and electricity, said Save the Children.
"The breakdown of the water and sewage systems can increase the risk of diarrhoea and other viral diseases, particularly amongst children and the elderly," said WHO’s Daher.
WHO says 34 of the 58 primary healthcare centres managed by the Gaza health ministry were functioning as of 8 January. Those not functioning are all in risky areas.