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“We have lost a large number of children...if there is no urgent response, we will lose more and more”: Children in northern Gaza dying as a result of malnutrition amid worsening food crisis 

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Children in the north of Gaza are dying as a result of malnutrition, a doctor has told ActionAid, as the unprecedented food crisis in the territory continues to worsen by the day. According to a new report by the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC), 90% of children in Gaza under the age of two are in severe food poverty, meaning they have eaten two or less food groups in the last 24 hours. At least 90% of children under five are affected by one or more infectious disease, while 70% had diarrhoea in the past two weeks, the report found. 

The situation in the north of Gaza, which has been largely cut off from aid, is even more dire, with one in six children acutely malnourished, and 3% of these suffering from severe wasting – the most serious kind of malnutrition.  
Dr Hossam Abu Safiya, a paediatric consultant in the northern Gaza Strip, said children were dying due to the sustained lack of food and water. In a video message, he said: “We have lost a significant number of children in recent days due to widespread malnutrition... We have recorded many cases that have been admitted to the intensive care unit. Most of the cases arrived in a state of advanced dehydration and advanced nature of the disease and were caused by malnutrition. 
“There is a spread of infection, especially at the level of the digestive system, most cases come in a very advanced and critical situation, due to the occurrence of intestinal infections, the complications of which include dehydration. This causes a malfunction in the system in the blood salts, which leads to the immediate admission of these cases in the overcrowded intensive care department.” 
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are so malnourished that many of their babies are being born underweight and with health issues. The GNC report found that 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty. Two-thirds of households in Gaza are only eating one meal per day, while adults in most households are restricting their own food intake so as to give their children something to eat.  
Speaking of the situation for new mothers, Dr Abu Safiya said: “Most cases that give birth, whether at home or in shelter centres, are in a very critical situation. There are signs of weakness and signs of paleness in newborns, present due to malnutrition in the mother. There are mothers who breastfeed their children, [but have] poor milk production, and this is related to the mother’s nutrition...most of the children's sizes and weights are small. 
“Unfortunately, there is no proper nutrition for the mother and no proper nutrition for the child. And the lack of supportive milk for children leads to a worsening of children’s health conditions.  
“The health situation is catastrophic in every sense of the word...Unfortunately, we have lost a large number of children, especially in recent weeks. If there is no urgent response, we will lose more and more.” 
Despite the desperate need for more food supplies to enter Gaza, the current flow of humanitarian aid into the territory amounts to little more than a trickle. The intensity of airstrikes, frequent border closures, restrictions on what items are permitted to enter and limits to the number of trucks allowed over the border are all to blame, leaving hundreds of thousands of people experiencing extreme hunger.  
Tamam, who is sheltering in a small tent in Gaza with her husband, six daughters and two sons, said: “Food for my children is not available. If you want to go to the market, life is difficult, and prices are high. We do not have the money to buy tomatoes or meat, nor flour for our children, nor do we have the money to eat.” 

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine said: “The most tragic thing about the hunger crisis gripping Gaza is that it is completely avoidable. It is beyond heartbreaking that children in the north are dying simply because they can’t get enough to eat. This is a man-made crisis – the world can and must do much more to ensure that life-saving food supplies and other humanitarian aid can enter Gaza at scale. How many more children must die before action is taken? 
“The only way to end the nightmare people in Gaza have been living in for more than 20 weeks now is an immediate and permanent ceasefire. It is the only way to stop the unconscionable death toll rising any further and ensure enough humanitarian aid can reach those in such desperate need.” 

Contact the ActionAid press office on or on 07753 973 486.