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WASHINGTON: Children have begun starving to death in Gaza, where the United Nations has warned a famine is “almost inevitable”, and Israel pressed on with its aggression even as pressure grows for a ceasefire.

Emaciated children

At least 15 children have died from starvation and dehydration in a single hospital, according to the health ministry in the territory.

Media including AFP have captured haunting images of emaciated infants with sunken eyes and gaunt faces.

Gaza ceasefire talks extended

Over the weekend, World Health Organization workers were able to visit hospitals in northern Gaza for the first time since October, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday on X.

He said the workers found “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed.”

Across Gaza, 90 percent of children aged 6-23 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty, according to a report released two weeks ago by the Global Nutrition Cluster, a network of nutrition NGOs led by UNICEF.

 Palestinian mother Anwar Abdulnabi cries over the body of her daughter Mila, who had been suffering from deficiencies of calcium and potassium, at Kamal Adwan hospital on the edges of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
Palestinian mother Anwar Abdulnabi cries over the body of her daughter Mila, who had been suffering from deficiencies of calcium and potassium, at Kamal Adwan hospital on the edges of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters

At least 90 percent of children under five are affected by one or more infectious diseases, it added.

Aid organizations working on the ground blame Israel for preventing enough food trucks from entering Gaza.

“As the occupying power in Gaza, Israel has the responsibility to ensure that the occupied population receives food and medical supplies,” the International Rescue Committee told AFP in a statement.

“Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions, is a war crime.”

‘Immense scale of suffering’: US calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza

At the start of the aggression, high-ranking Israeli officials such as defence minister Yoav Gallant, openly called for a “complete siege” to deprive Palestinians of food, fuel and water. But officials have since walked back that rhetoric.

“Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza,” military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said recently, adding Israel was “facilitating aid.”

The UN food agency said Tuesday its aid convoy was turned away by Israeli forces at a checkpoint in northern Gaza.

Last week, Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians looking for food aid in a chaotic melee and killed more than 100 people.

US military planes have begun dropping tens of thousands of meals, though aid agencies say this is an inefficient way to curb the crisis.

‘Lifelong impacts’

Dabney Evans, director of the Center for Humanitarian Emergencies at Emory University, told AFP that images from Gaza indicated the most severe forms of malnutrition, including “wasting” which refers to extremely low weight for a person’s height, as a result of severe decreases in caloric intake in a short period of time.

“Their bodies are beginning to break down and are in shock,” said Evans, explaining that bringing someone back to good health requires careful supervised medical care, not just giving them food, which can be dangerous.

Belgium sends transporter to drop aid into Gaza

Imad Dardonah, a pediatrician at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, the only pediatrics hospital in northern Gaza, told AFP that staff had supplies to only treat around half of cases adequately.

 Palestinian children carry pots as they queue to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen, amid shortages in food supplies in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters
Palestinian children carry pots as they queue to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen, amid shortages in food supplies in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters

“We have nothing to give them, the most we can do for them is either give them saline solution or sugar solution.”

If malnutrition is prolonged it will lead to longterm consequences such as growth stunting, a reduced ability to learn, and a weakened immune system.

Anu Narayan, an advisor for UNICEF on child nutrition, told AFP there would likely be a “lifelong impact” at least on some individuals.

UC Berkeley researchers recently learned that people born during the Great Chinese Famine more than 60 years ago – and their offspring – had far higher rates of tuberculosis, “indicating a previously unrecognized, intergenerational effect of prenatal and early life exposure to famine.”

The “F” word

Since 2004, “famine” has had a formal technical definition: it occurs when at least 20 percent of the population face extreme food shortages, acute malnutrition rates exceed 30 percent, and two out of 1,000 people die from starvation on a daily basis.

While the word is highly charged and has the power to spur world action, it has only been officially declared twice in the past decade: in Somalia in 2011, and South Sudan in 2017.

 People watch as the US military carries out its first aid drop over Gaza. Photo: Reuters
People watch as the US military carries out its first aid drop over Gaza. Photo: Reuters

But Narayan told AFP it made little sense to fixate on the fact the Gaza crisis had not yet met the highest possible classification.

8,000 patients need evacuating from Gaza: WHO

“We have seen that all the factors that put people, but particularly young children at such high risk, are there.”

Comments

200 characters
Az_Iz Mar 06, 2024 06:24pm
The Zionists are pure evil.
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Tariq Qurashi Mar 07, 2024 10:51am
Hitler would be proud of the Israelis! It is a complete disgrace that none of the Muslim world has done anything to stop this brutality, and the West is complicit and is crying crocodile tears.
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