Malnutrition crisis skyrockets in Gaza: One-third of toddlers face acute hunger amidst conflict

In Gaza's shadows, a malnutrition crisis grips its youngest, with one-third of toddlers in acute hunger. Amidst conflict, a generation's future hangs in balance, urging a global call to action.

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A surge in acute malnutrition among the children of Gaza, particularly those under the age of two, is sounding alarm bells across the international community. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has revealed startling statistics that underscore the grave reality faced by the most vulnerable in the conflict-stricken region.

In northern Gaza, the situation has reached a critical juncture with one-third of children under two now grappling with acute malnutrition. This figure represents a twofold increase from January, where the malnutrition rate stood at 15.6%, escalating to a staggering 31% within a single month. Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s Executive Director, voiced her concern, stating, “The speed at which this catastrophic child malnutrition crisis in Gaza has unfolded is shocking, especially when desperately needed assistance has been at the ready just a few miles away.”

The entirety of the Gaza Strip is feeling the impact of this crisis, with malnutrition rates soaring in areas beyond the north. Khan Younis reports a 28% acute malnutrition rate among its children, while Rafah has seen its rates double from 5% to 10% from January to the end of February.

The human cost of this escalating crisis is heartbreakingly evident. UNICEF disclosed that severe wasting, the most dire and potentially fatal form of malnutrition, is afflicting 4.5% of children in shelters and health centers in northern Gaza. In Khan Younis, the prevalence of this severe condition exceeds 10%. Tragically, at least 23 children in northern Gaza have succumbed to starvation or dehydration in recent weeks.

The conflict has taken a disproportionate toll on the youngest, with approximately 13,450 children reported deceased out of a total death toll surpassing 31,000. This stark figure lays bare the devastating impact of the conflict on innocent lives.

Efforts to alleviate this dire situation are hindered by significant obstacles in delivering humanitarian aid. Russell highlighted the challenges faced by UNICEF in securing the necessary supplies to treat malnourished children. The scrutiny of aid shipments by Israeli authorities and the outright rejection of some shipments due to contents deemed inappropriate have further exacerbated the situation.

Moreover, the hostile environment has seen aid convoys and those gathering to receive aid come under fire, resulting in additional casualties and further complicating relief efforts. Russell lamented, “We have repeatedly attempted to deliver additional aid and we have repeatedly called for the access challenges we have faced for months to be addressed. Instead, the situation for children is getting worse by each passing day.”

The only viable solution to halt the rapid decline in children’s health and well-being in Gaza, according to Russell, is for an immediate cessation of hostilities. “An immediate humanitarian cease-fire continues to provide the only chance to save children’s lives and end their suffering,” she stated. The establishment of secure and unobstructed aid channels, including multiple land border crossings, is imperative to deliver aid at scale, especially to the hardest-hit areas like northern Gaza.

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