April 18, 2024
Health

CNC reports malnutrition crisis is gripping Gaza Strip

Children’s lives are seen as particularly at risk

A dire surge in malnutrition, particularly among children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, is threatening lives in the Gaza Strip as the conflict enters its 20th week, warns a comprehensive analysis released by the Global Nutrition Cluster (GNC) on February 19, 2024.

The report, titled ‘Nutrition Vulnerability and Situation Analysis – Gaza,’ reveals an alarming escalation of malnutrition, with a particularly severe impact in the Northern Gaza Strip, where aid has been nearly non-existent for weeks.

The GNC was established in 2006 as part of the Humanitarian Reform process, which aims to improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian response by ensuring greater predictability, accountability and partnership. 

Severe wasting

Nutrition screenings conducted in the north found that 15.6% of children under two are acutely malnourished, with almost 3% suffering from severe wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition.

In comparison, screenings in the Southern Gaza Strip, where aid has been more accessible, found 5% of children under two facing acute malnutrition. The data collected in January 2024 paints a bleak picture, likely worse today as the conflict persists.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director for Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations, Ted Chaiban, expressed grave concerns, stating: “The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths… If the conflict doesn’t end now, children’s nutrition will continue to plummet, leading to preventable deaths or health issues.”

Before the recent hostilities, wasting in the Gaza Strip was rare, with just 0.8% of children under five acutely malnourished. The rapid increase to 15.6% of wasting among children under two in Northern Gaza in just three months is unprecedented globally.

The lack of food, water, and health services poses a high risk of further malnutrition across the Gaza Strip:

  • 90% of children under two and 95% of pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty.
  • 95% of households limit meals and portion sizes, with 64% eating only one meal daily.
  • Over 95% of households restrict food for adults to ensure small children have enough to eat.

WFP Assistant Executive Director for Programme Operations, Valerie Guarnieri, noted the preventable nature of the crisis, adding: “Children and women, in particular, need continuous access to healthy foods, clean water, and health and nutrition services.”

Inadequate safe drinking water and insufficient water for cooking and hygiene further compound poor nutrition, with households surveyed having access to less than one litre of safe water per person per day, well below humanitarian standards.

2022 baseline

The report highlights the devastating impact on the health of Gazans, with at least 90% of children under five affected by infectious diseases, including a 23-fold increase in diarrhoea cases compared to the 2022 baseline.

UNICEF, WFP, and WHO have jointly called for safe, unimpeded, and sustained access to deliver multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance throughout the Gaza Strip, including nutritious foods and essential services for malnourished children and women.

The three organisations have stressed the urgent need for a humanitarian ceasefire to save lives and end suffering.

Featured image: Before the recent hostilities, wasting in the Gaza Strip was rare. Image: Obi Pixel8propix

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247

    Middle East News 247 delivers the latest business and lifestyle news and essential infotainment for, and from the Middle East region, with key focus on the GCC nations: United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.
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