The ongoing conflict in Gaza has left children vulnerable to malnutrition and starvation, with dire consequences for their health and future.
The devastating impact of the ongoing conflict in Gaza is not limited to the immediate casualties and destruction. The region is now facing a severe nutrition crisis that threatens the lives of its one million children. With supplies of nutritious food depleted, access to safe drinking water scarce, and healthcare facilities struggling to cope, the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Urgent action is needed to prevent a public health catastrophe and ensure the well-being of Gaza’s youngest generation.
The Desperate Struggle for Survival in Gaza’s Hospitals
Last week, a visit to the al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis revealed the dire conditions faced by both patients and healthcare workers. With supplies of fuel, medicines, and water nearly depleted, doctors and nurses are mounting heroic efforts to provide lifesaving care. However, the lack of resources and the closure of border crossings pose a significant challenge to their ability to continue basic interventions. The neonatal ward, in particular, is at risk, with tiny babies clinging to life in incubators that rely on fuel to operate.
Food Insecurity and the Collapse of Local Flour Production
Gaza’s one million children are now food insecure, facing the prospect of starvation. Shops are closed, and the once vibrant food stands have been replaced by piles of garbage. The recent attack on the al-Salam Mill, Gaza’s last functional flour mill, has effectively halted all local flour production. The consequences are devastating, as the supply of nutritious food has virtually run out, leaving the population vulnerable to malnutrition and its associated health risks.
The Scarcity of Safe Drinking Water
In addition to the lack of food, the scarcity of safe drinking water compounds the crisis in Gaza. Approximately 96 percent of the water supply is considered unfit for human consumption. Water pumping and wastewater treatment have come to a halt due to the lack of fuel, forcing people to resort to accessing water from unsafe sources. This situation, combined with displacement and overcrowding in shelters, increases the risk of disease outbreaks, particularly among malnourished children.
The Impact on Pregnant Women and Newborns
The consequences of the nutrition crisis extend beyond the immediate population. Approximately 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza can no longer access basic antenatal health and nutrition services, increasing the risks for both mother and child. Malnourished women face complications during pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in children born small, thin, and vulnerable to undernutrition and illness. The lack of baby formula further exacerbates the situation, as breastfeeding mothers struggle to feed themselves and their babies.
The Urgent Need for Intervention and Care
Projections indicate that child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition, could increase by nearly 30 percent in Gaza over the next few months. Up to 5,000 children could experience severe wasting, putting them at imminent risk of death even from common illnesses. Without urgent therapeutic feeding and care, severely malnourished children may not survive, and those who do may face long-term physical and cognitive effects. The interruption of prevention and treatment services for malnutrition further compounds the crisis.
The nutrition crisis in Gaza is rapidly escalating, with devastating consequences for its one million children. Urgent action is needed to ensure the delivery of essential food, nutrition supplies, water, and fuel to the region. The parties involved in the conflict must prioritize the well-being of Gaza’s children and allow humanitarian partners to provide the necessary support. Time is of the essence, and any delays will cost lives. It is crucial to prevent this crisis from turning into a catastrophe and give Gaza’s children the chance to survive and thrive.