UNICEF says 1 in 6 children in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished as Israel maintains deadly blockade

AP , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

A study led by the U.N. children's agency found that one in six children in Gaza City is acutely malnourished as Israel maintains a deadly blockade on all food, medicine, and fuel to tens of thousands of Palestinians who refused to leave despite Israeli bombardment since 7 October.

Palestinian children
Displaced Palestinian children gather to receive food at a government school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 19, 2024. AFP

 

The report finds deepening misery across the Gaza Strip, where Israel's air and ground offensive has killed and injured more than 100,000 civilians, obliterated entire neighbourhoods and displaced more than 80 percent of the population.

The report by the Global Nutrition Cluster, an aid partnership led by the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, says more than 90% of children under five in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups a day, known as severe food poverty. A similar percentage are affected by infectious diseases, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the last two weeks.

More than 80% of homes lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter (quart) per person per day, according to the report released Monday.

In Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, the acute malnutrition rate is 5%, compared to 15% in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and largely cut off from aid for months. Before the war the rate across Gaza was less than 1%, the report said.

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths, which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” UNICEF official Ted Chaiban said in a statement.

A U.N. report in December found that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million Palestinians is in a food crisis, with a quarter of the population facing starvation.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the main provider of aid in Gaza, said earlier this month that Israel was holding up a food shipment that could feed over a million people.

Israel has vowed to expand the offensive to the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of the territory's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from its bombardment elsewhere. Many have crowded into sprawling tent camps and overflowing U.N.-run shelters near the Egyptian border.

On Tuesday, the military ordered the evacuation of the Zaytoun and Turkoman neighborhoods on the southern edge of Gaza City, an indication that Palestinian militants are still putting up stiff resistance in areas of northern Gaza that the Israeli military said had been largely cleared weeks ago.

Residents said there have been airstrikes and heavy ground fighting in eastern parts of Gaza City over the past two days. “The situation is very difficult," said Ayman Abu Awad, who lives in Zaytoun. "We are trapped inside our homes.”

The report by the Global Nutrition Cluster, an aid partnership led by the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, says more than 90% of children under five in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups a day, known as severe food poverty. A similar percentage are affected by infectious diseases, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the last two weeks.

More than 80% of homes lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter (quart) per person per day, according to the report released Monday.

In Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, the acute malnutrition rate is 5%, compared to 15% in northern Gaza, which has been blockaded by the Israeli military and largely cut off from aid for months. Before the war the rate across Gaza was less than 1%, the report said.

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths, which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” UNICEF official Ted Chaiban said in a statement.

A U.N. report in December found that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million Palestinians is in a food crisis, with a quarter of the population facing starvation.

Israel has imposed a deadly blockade on most food, medicine, and fuel in Gaza since 7 October.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, the main provider of aid in Gaza, said earlier this month that Israel was holding up a food shipment that could feed over a million people.

Israel accused 12 employees of the agency of taking part in the Oct. 7 operation, without providing evidence. That led several donors to freeze vital funding for the agency, even after it fired the workers and launched an independent investigation.

The United States, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement. But those efforts appear to have stalled.

Gaza's Health Ministry said on Monday that the Palestinian death toll had risen to 29,092 since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, with around two-thirds of the fatalities being women and children. More than 69,000 Palestinians have been wounded, overwhelming the territory’s hospitals, less than half of which are even partially functioning. 

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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