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Strategic Analysis 21 May, 2024

Health Security Implications of the War on Gaza: A Perspective Analysis

Abdulkarim Ekzayez

Health System Expert at the Centre for Conflict and Health Research at King's College London. He is a Co-Investigator of a four-year NIHR funded project, Research for Health System Strengthening in Northern Syria (R4HSSS). He was awarded his MD from Aleppo University and his MSc in Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and his PhD on health systems and conflict at King's College London. His prior experience includes various academic and consultancy roles with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, American University of Beirut, Chatham House, Chemonics International, Blumont International, and Integrity Global. He specializes in Health Systems Strengthening, Humanitarian Health, Health Security, Epidemiology, the public health impacts of conflict and building health research capacity in conflict settings.

Introduction

acrobat Icon The conflict in Gaza serves as a poignant testament to the enduring cycle of violence and suffering that plagues the region. Rooted in decades of geopolitical tensions and unresolved territorial disputes, the conflict has resulted in untold human suffering, displacement, and loss of life since 7 October 2023. The ongoing brutality threatens the very existence of Gazans.

The intersection between health and conflict is a sobering reality that has profoundly shaped human history. Throughout the annals of warfare, health crises have often been as devastating as direct armed conflict. In World War I the US military estimates that two-thirds of the 37 million deaths among combatants were not from enemy bullets but rather from infections and other diseases such as trench fever. The Spanish flu, infamous for its widespread impact, claimed more lives than the battlefield itself, contributing to the war’s end.

Since the last century, the medical workforce has increasingly played roles in mediating health access and conflict resolution, given their firsthand experiences with the consequences of wars. In his letter to the Lancet during the Korean War in 1951, Dr Richard Doll argues that since doctors have to deal with the consequences of war, they should have a role to halt preparation for war. Consequently, the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) was established advocating for peace, disarmament, and conflict prevention. Similarly, health workers should take a stance on the catastrophic consequences of the conflict in Gaza.