Israel-Hamas war: Children in Gaza now dying of malnutrition, dehydration and disease, says Unicef official

UN children’s organisation blames ‘impediments’ and ‘dangers’ to bringing aid into region, with humanitarian officials warning Gaza ‘hurtling towards a famine’

Unicef has said children have died in Gaza because of a lack of food, water and medicine.

“The child deaths we feared are here, as malnutrition ravages the Gaza Strip,” the regional director of the United Nations children’s organisation Adele Khodr said on Sunday. “At least 10 children have reportedly died because of dehydration and malnutrition in Kamal Adwan Hospital in Northern Gaza in recent days. There are likely more children fighting for their lives somewhere in one of Gaza’s remaining hospitals.” On Monday, the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said 16 children had died from starvation.

Ms Khodr called such deaths “man-made, predictable and entirely preventable”. She blamed them on “the impediments to access and multiple dangers facing UN humanitarian operations [which are] impacting children and mothers”, who cannot breastfeed their babies, especially in the north of Gaza. “The disparity in conditions between the north and south is clear evidence that aid restrictions in the north are costing lives.”

In January, Unicef and the World Food Programme found that 16 per cent of one- and two-year-old children in the north were acutely malnourished, compared to 5 per cent in the south.


Ms Khodr said aid agencies need “multiple reliable entry points” to take in aid as well as “security assurances and unimpeded passage to distribute aid across Gaza with no denials, delays and access impediments”. She spoke of the feeling of “helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realising that life-saving aid, just a few kilometres away, is being kept out of reach”.

The health ministry described an “extremely catastrophic” situation in Gaza and said there are about one million cases of infectious diseases, which degraded medical services cannot treat. The ministry said that Israeli military attacks have killed 13,430 children and 364 health personnel. It said 32 hospitals and 53 health centres have been put out of service, and 126 ambulances have been struck.

Humanitarian officials have said that Gaza is “hurtling toward a famine” due to “Israel’s limitation of land entry points for aid; an onerous and confusing Israeli inspection process; faulty [communications] channels between aid groups and Israel’s military; Israeli efforts to undermine the United Nations; and its military’s recent targeting of Gazan police who once protected aid missions.”

Israel has said it is not limiting aid deliveries and blames the UN for failing to meet Gazan needs.

There was no response by Israel’s government press office to a request for comment.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times