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Feb 21, 2024

Children malnutrition rises in Gaza Strip

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FA News Desk
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A steep rise in malnutrition among children and pregnant and breastfeeding women in the Gaza strip poses grave threats to their health, according to a comprehensive new analysis released by the Global Nutrition Cluster.

As the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip enters its 20th week, food and safe water have become incredibly scarce and diseases are rife, compromising women and children’s nutrition and immunity and resulting in a surge of acute malnutrition.

The report “Nutrition Vulnerability and Situation Analysis – Gaza” – finds that the situation is particularly extreme in the Northern Gaza Strip, which has been almost completely cut off from aid for weeks.

Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centres in the north found that 15.6 per cent – or 1 in 6 children under 2 years of age – are acutely malnourished. Of these, almost 3 per cent suffer from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, which puts young children at highest risk of medical complications and death unless they receive urgent treatment. As the data were collected in January, the situation is likely to be even graver today.

Similar screenings in the Southern Gaza Strip, in Rafah, where aid has been more available, found 5 per cent of children under 2 years are acutely malnourished. This is clear evidence that access to humanitarian aid is needed and can help prevent the worst outcomes. It also reinforces agencies’ calls to protect Rafah from the threat of intensified military operations.

There is a high risk that malnutrition will continue to rise across the Gaza Strip due to the alarming lack of food, water and health and nutrition services. Inadequate safe drinking water, as well as insufficient water for cooking and hygiene purposes, are compounding poor nutrition. Hungry, thirsty and weak, more Gazans are falling sick. The report finds at least 90 per cent of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious diseases.

UNICEF, WFP and WHO call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access to urgently deliver multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance throughout the Gaza Strip.

WHO transfers critical patients

WHO led two life-saving missions to transfer 32 critical patients, including two children, from Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza on 18 and 19 February, amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions.

The high-risk missions were conducted in close partnership with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The team also provided limited supplies of essential medicines and food for the remaining patients and staff who are otherwise cut off from aid.

Four PRCS ambulances ensured the safe transportation of the patients, who underwent medical assessment and triage under the coordination of the hospital director.

Patients were moved to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, Al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza’s middle area, and the International Medical Corps, UAE.

Nasser Hospital has no electricity or running water, and medical waste and garbage are creating a breeding ground for disease.

An estimated 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 doctors and nurses remain inside the hospital. As the ICU was no longer functioning, WHO staff transferred the only remaining ICU patient to a different part of the complex where other patients are receiving basic care.

On 17 February, an UNRWA-led mission, which included WHO staff, delivered 24,000 liters of fuel and limited food and water supplies to the hospital, after not being able to reach it on 16 February due to unforgiving road conditions, including a deep, muddy, impassable ditch 50 meters from the hospital.

WHO repeats its calls for the protection of patients, health workers, health infrastructure, and civilians. Hospitals must not be militarized, misused, or attacked. 

Millions battle hunger in Sudan

In another report, At least 25 million people are struggling with soaring rates of hunger and malnutrition as the crisis arising from the war in Sudan sends shockwaves around the region, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned.

Thousands of families continue to be displaced and forced across borders into Chad and South Sudan each week while fighting between Government forces and the powerful RSF militia, which erupted last April, continues.

There are 18 million acutely food insecure people within the country, and around 3.8 million Sudanese children under five are malnourished.