Almost 10% of Gaza’s under-fives now acutely malnourished, UN says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 9, 2024 | 7:03 AM

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – Almost one in 10 of Gazan children under five are now acutely malnourished, overwhelmingly as a result of Israel’s war on the territory’s Hamas rulers, according to initial U.N. data from arm measurements that show physical wasting.

The food supplies that Gaza depends on have shrivelled from their pre-war level, and aid workers have reported visible signs of starvation, especially in areas of northern and central Gaza worst hit by Israel’s war on Hamas since Oct. 7.

Measurements of thousands of young children’s and infants’ arm circumferences showed that 9.6% were acutely malnourished, up about 12 times from pre-war levels, according to a note from the U.N. humanitarian office, OCHA.

In northern Gaza, the rate was 16.2%, or one in six.

Food trucks have in recent weeks regularly been mobbed by hungry crowds before they could reach the hospitals they were heading for, according to aid workers.

The charity ActionAid said some Gazans were eating grass. “Every single person in Gaza is now hungry, and people have just 1.5 to 2 litres of unsafe water per day to meet all their needs,” it said.

The Islamic Relief charity quoted a member of its staff in Gaza as saying: “My children and I haven’t eaten fruit or vegetables for months, and people get killed when they try to meet aid trucks arriving from the U.N …

“We are trying to make bread with dried corn that we previously used as animal feed, as flour is extremely scarce … And we are relatively lucky compared to most people, who don’t have anything at all.”

The international non-profit organisation Project HOPE said around 15% of the pregnant women it had assessed in its Deir Al-Balah clinic in central Gaza last week were malnourished.

It also reported a surge in anaemia, or iron deficiency, which can increase premature births and postpartum bleeding.

Dr Santosh Kumar, its medical director, who returned from Gaza last week, said he and his team had limited themselves to one meal a day in solidarity with the Gazans.

“People are starving, people have no dignity,” he told Reuters. “People said to me: ‘Dead people are luckier.'”

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)