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Leading experts foresee up to 74,290 excess deaths in Gaza

Under even the most optimistic scenario of an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, projections alarmingly predict as many as 6,550 excess deaths even in the absence of epidemics. This is the lowest imaginable and the grim number could escalate dramatically to between 58,260 and 74,290 excess deaths under the current conditions and a potential escalation of the conflict, respectively.

These forecasts are the findings of a collaborative project between the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University, aiming to inform humanitarian efforts and policy decisions amid the devastating war.

The projections – outlined in their report Crisis in Gaza: Scenario-Based Health Impact Projections – underscore the dual threats of infectious diseases and traumatic injuries as the primary causes of these excess deaths.

As the report states: “The projections are not predictions of what will happen in Gaza but provide a range of projections of what could happen under three distinct scenarios: 1) an immediate permanent ceasefire; 2) status quo (a continuation of conditions experienced from October 2023 till mid-January); and 3) a further escalation of the conflict.”

It goes on to claim: “Over the next six months we project that, in the absence of epidemics, 6,550 excess deaths would occur under the ceasefire scenario, climbing to 58,260 under the status quo scenario and 74,290 under the escalation scenario. Over the same period and with the occurrence of epidemics, our projections rise to 11,580, 66,720, and 85,750, respectively. All projections feature 95% uncertainty intervals.”

The analysis, covering a six-month period from February 7 to August 6, 2024, reveals the urgent need for improved sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare services in the Gaza Strip. Despite the possibility of a ceasefire, the anticipated death toll underscores the lasting impact of the conflict on Gaza’s civilian population, including a significant risk of death from common endemic infections and the dire consequences of continued violence.

With the vast majority of Gaza’s residents displaced, living in overcrowded conditions with inadequate access to essential services, the study’s findings highlight the dire humanitarian situation. The projections serve as a crucial tool for humanitarian organizations, governments, and other actors, offering a range of outcomes based on various future scenarios to aid in planning and implementing effective responses to the crisis.

The project utilises a combination of publicly available data, expert consultations, and peer-reviewed research to estimate excess deaths, taking into account the limitations and biases of different data sources. The aim is to contribute to saving lives by helping stakeholders make sound, evidence-based decisions in their efforts to address the unfolding public health emergency in Gaza and mitigate the war’s devastating effects on its civilian population.

“In light of this report’s projections, it’s clear that the humanitarian impact of the Israel-Gaza conflict extends far beyond the immediate toll of violence,” stated Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence (AOAV). “The projected excess deaths, driven largely by infectious diseases and traumatic injuries, underline a dire need for immediate intervention in sanitation, nutrition, and healthcare services in Gaza. This situation demands not just a ceasefire but a comprehensive approach to rebuild and improve the fundamental aspects of civilian life, ensuring that the most vulnerable are protected from the cascading effects of this conflict. The international community must heed these projections as a call to action, prioritizing the well-being and health of Gaza’s population in their response efforts.”