Gaza’s youngest bear the brunt: 1 in 10 children under 5 are malnourished

The war has severely impacted Gaza's food supply, which was already reliant on imports and humanitarian aid.

Image credit: Canada Talks Israel Palestine

In Gaza, a nutrition crisis is unfolding at an alarming rate, with almost one in ten children under five years old now acutely malnourished. The U.N.’s initial data, based on arm measurements indicating physical wasting, points to a dire situation exacerbated by Israel’s ongoing military actions against Hamas rulers in the territory.

U.N. humanitarian office OCHA’s recent note reveals that arm circumference measurements of thousands of young children and infants indicate that 9.6% are acutely malnourished, marking a roughly twelve-fold increase from pre-war levels. In northern Gaza, the situation is even more severe, with the rate soaring to 16.2%, or one in six children, showing signs of acute malnutrition.

The war has severely impacted Gaza’s food supply, which was already reliant on imports and humanitarian aid. Recent weeks have seen food trucks mobbed by desperate crowds before they could reach their intended destinations, highlighting the acute shortage of food. Aid workers report visible signs of starvation, especially in the hardest-hit areas of northern and central Gaza.

Charities operating in the region, such as ActionAid and Islamic Relief, have provided harrowing accounts of the situation on the ground. Some Gazans have resorted to eating grass to survive. A staff member from Islamic Relief shared, “My children and I haven’t eaten fruit or vegetables for months… We are trying to make bread with dried corn that we previously used as animal feed, as flour is extremely scarce.”

The health crisis extends to pregnant women in Gaza, with Project HOPE reporting that around 15% of the pregnant women assessed in its Deir Al-Balah clinic were malnourished. The organization also noted a surge in anemia among pregnant women, posing risks of premature births and postpartum bleeding.

Dr. Santosh Kumar, Project HOPE’s medical director, recently returned from Gaza and shared his observations, noting that he and his team limited themselves to one meal a day in solidarity with the Gazans. “People are starving, people have no dignity,” Dr. Kumar stated, adding, “Dead people are luckier.”

As Israel continues its blockade, the conditions in Gaza worsen, with the U.N. warning of a potential famine that could affect the entire population of 2.2 million in the coming weeks and months. The blockade has made it increasingly difficult for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, exacerbating the crisis.

The conflict has had a devastating impact on Gaza’s youth, with UNICEF reporting that Israel’s siege has orphaned 19,000 Palestinian children. Save the Children noted that an average of over ten children a day lost one or both of their legs in the first three months of the siege, highlighting the grim reality faced by Gaza’s youngest residents.

The challenges faced by aid organizations in delivering and distributing aid in Gaza are immense, with Israel blocking the majority of aid trucks and targeting aid workers. The international community, including the U.S., has been called upon to take concrete action to bring about a complete and sustained ceasefire.

As Dr. Kumar said, “People are starving, people have no dignity.”


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Alexis Sterling is a seasoned War and Human Rights Reporter with a passion for reporting the truth in some of the world's most tumultuous regions. With a background in journalism and a keen interest in international affairs, Alexis's reporting is grounded in a commitment to human rights and a deep understanding of the complexities of global conflicts. Her work seeks to give voice to the voiceless and bring to light the human stories behind the headlines. Alexis is dedicated to responsible and engaged journalism, constantly striving to inform and educate the public on critical issues of war and human rights across the globe.