Thousands of vaccine doses targeting childhood diseases, including polio and measles, have begun arriving in the Gaza Strip, offering a glimmer of hope amid a growing health emergency, as announced by the Palestinian health ministry on Monday.
The ongoing ground offensive by Israel has disrupted regular health services in Gaza, creating a vacuum in essential vaccinations against highly contagious childhood diseases. These diseases had previously been kept in check through mass immunization programs, which the current situation has severely impacted.
The Palestinian health ministry disclosed that the vaccine supplies, expected to cover immunizations for a period ranging from 8 to 14 months, entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with the assistance of Egyptian government cold storage facilities. This lifeline comes as a response to Israel’s announcement on Friday, declaring its facilitation of vaccine entry to mitigate the potential spread of diseases.
Yasser Bouzia, head of international relations in the health ministry in Ramallah, said there were estimated to be some 60,000 newborn babies in Gaza, who would normally receive vaccination but who have been largely cut off from medical services.
Administering the vaccines poses a considerable challenge as the majority of Gaza’s population has been displaced from their homes, with hundreds of thousands residing in temporary accommodations such as tents. The displaced population’s precarious living conditions further complicate the efforts to deliver crucial immunizations.
The Palestinian health ministry procured the vaccines combating diseases like rubella, polio, measles, and mumps and received additional support from UNICEF, the United Nations children’s fund, in the form of donations, the ministry confirmed.
This intervention marks a collaborative effort to address the pressing health needs of Gaza’s vulnerable population, especially children, who are particularly susceptible to the outbreak of preventable diseases. The initiative not only aims to combat the immediate health crisis but also underscores the importance of international cooperation in humanitarian emergencies.