Gaza heatwave adds ‘extra layer of suffering to an already catastrophic humanitarian situation’

Gaza heatwave adds ‘extra layer of suffering to an already catastrophic humanitarian situation’
7 May 2024

By the Climate Centre

Extreme unseasonal heat across Gaza is believed to have caused the deaths of at least two children, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said late last month; the heat had generated new fears of disease amid a lack of clean water and waste disposal.

“An unusual heatwave … made the already inhumane living conditions even worse for 1.5 million people, mostly living under plastic sheets in Rafah,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in a statement.

It added “an extra layer of suffering to an already catastrophic humanitarian situation,” the IFRC’s Tommaso Della Longa told Bloomberg.

Climate Centre scientists say there is a rising trend of annual average temperatures in Gaza, while the latest episode of extreme heat is part of a pattern of hotter and more frequent heatwaves around the world this year.

US media reports quoted a private weather service as saying that temperatures exceeded the seasonal norm by as much as 13°C in Gaza; the thermometer had reached 40°C on 25 April.


The same day, temperatures in Tel Aviv broke an 85-year-old record for April, the Times of Israel quoted the Israeli Meteorological Service as saying, as it “remained engulfed in a heatwave for a second straight day”: temperatures touched 40.7°C shortly after midday, breaking a record of 40.4°C set in 1939.

The IMS (through translation) said on Twitter/X that April was “noticeably warmer” than average, rainier than average in the north, and drier than average in the south; it continued “a long streak of almost a year with warmer than average months”.

Israeli media reports said the Magen David Adom had treated three people for heat-related conditions, and quoted Dr Avner Gross of Ben Gurion University’s Department of Environmental Sciences as saying the “current heat is unusual by any standard. It’s not that there aren’t heatwaves in April, but the intensity is unusual.

“It is part of a very heavy heatwave that is affecting the entire eastern Mediterranean region, like Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.”

The psychosocial health department of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the ICRC are organizing recreational activities for displaced children in Rafah to try to ease suffering that now includes extreme heat and life in tents that “feel like greenhouses”. (Photo: PRCS via ICRC)