'Ticking time bomb': Mountains of waste see health crisis amid Israel's landfill blockade

'Ticking time bomb': Mountains of waste see health crisis amid Israel's landfill blockade
Contagious diseases are spreading through the Gazan population as piles of untreated rubbish attract mosquitoes and the displaced are forced to camp nearby.
4 min read
24 June, 2024
An informal rubbish dump has been growing in Nuseirat camp in central Gaza as Israeli forces prevent access to official landfill sites [Al-Araby Al-Jadeed]

Israel's eight-month war on the Gaza Strip has created a deadly time bomb: open sites where rotting refuse have piled up for months due to access to Gaza's main landfills being blocked.

This situation has seen a proliferation of contagious diseases, especially among the displaced, amid a dire humanitarian situation generated by Israel's genocidal onslaught in which vital infrastructure has been deliberately targeted and disabled.

With the onset of summer and rising temperatures, the Nuseirat camp's rubbish dump, in the central region of the Gaza Strip, is one of many such sites now posing an increasing risk to the health of thousands of displaced Palestinians who have been forced to seek shelter close to the landfill.

Under the scorching, midday sun, 10-year-old Mohammed Harb rummages through piles of garbage in the new market area of Nuseirat, looking for pieces of wood and plastic to help his mother prepare food.

"We are getting breathing and skin diseases which are spreading because of the piles of garbage near hundreds of displaced people's tents, as well as the foul smell coming from them, especially now summer is starting," Harb says to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic language sister edition.

The accumulated waste is creating a fertile environment for insects like mosquitoes and flies to multiply, which is contributing to the spread of infections.

Mountains of waste: A ticking time bomb

Fifty-year-old Um Muhammed describes life near the Nuseirat garbage dump as a living death, adding, "we can't sleep because of the disgusting stench coming from the piled-up garbage, and the mosquitoes and flies".

She says her young children have contracted highly contagious chickenpox with no response from authorities.

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Aya Hajjaj, another displaced resident who has ended up living close to the rubbish dump, describes living conditions in Nuseirat as "catastrophic" due to the huge increase in mosquitoes, flies and other insects.

"There are no words to describe the suffering we are going through," she says, adding that children in the area near the landfill have developed "strange" skin conditions, while stray dogs roam the area.

Mohammed Abu Ful, who is living in a tent in Nuseirat, says his wife has scabies which they believe is due to the spread of insects and called for measures to protect children and women forced to live close to the growing piles of waste.

Nebal Farsakh, the Palestinian Red Crescent's spokesperson in Gaza, recently confirmed they had recorded over a million cases of infectious diseases in Gaza, particularly hepatitis, and warned of cholera spreading due to contaminated water.

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Waseem Al-Louh, an employee in Nuseirat council which is working to try to alleviate the crisis, says: "the accumulating refuse near the displaced is happening because the occupation [Israel] has taken control of the main landfill sites in eastern Gaza.

"We can't risk going there as Israeli tanks are stationed there preventing access," he adds, as he sits atop a cart loaded with piles of rubbish that have been collected from around the tents of the dispaced.

He says Nuseirat municipality is making huge efforts to remove the waste, to avoid a health and environmental disaster for Palestinians in the central region.

Following Israel's ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, the Nuseirat camp in Deir Al-Balah governorate has become overcrowded with over 300,000 people from various parts of the Gaza Strip sheltering there.

Nuseirat municipality has made efforts to accommodate the huge influx of displaced despite limited resources and inadequate infrastructure, especially after Israeli military assaults on the northern and eastern areas of the camp left much of the camp in ruins.

On 8 June, Israel launched a massive aerial, land and sea assault on civilians in Nuseirat camp's main market, killing 274 and wounding around 700, in one of its deadliest massacres since it launched its all-out assault on the Gaza Strip following Hamas' October 7 attack.   

Israel has deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure and services provision since then, plunging Gaza into a major humanitarian crisis.

Water, electricity, and sewage networks and stations have all been destroyed, as well as roads, wells and the trucks and machinery used for waste collection and disposal.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Nahed Abu Harbeed on 24 June 2024. To read the original article click here.