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Devastating new figures reveal Gaza’s child hunger catastrophe

GAZA, 25 June 2024 – Nearly the entire population of the Gaza strip, or 96% of the population, are facing acute food shortages, with more than 495,000 people including children facing starvation due to an extreme lack of food, according to figures released today by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). 

Save the Children medical staff have reported about 40 cases of children with severe and life-threatening malnutrition at one of its clinics in just five weeks, with children and adults presenting with symptoms including extremely low weight, fatigue, low blood pressure and other illnesses associated with hunger. 

Over the weekend, one 38-year-old mother arrived at a Save the Children clinic with severe fatigue and muscle wasting. She weighed just 38kg (84 lbs). 

Rachel Cummings, Save the Children’s Team Leader in Gaza, said:

“We know how to prevent malnutrition, we know how to treat malnutrition, but we aren’t being given the opportunity to do it. Severe and significant aid restrictions and heavy fighting means we can’t run clinics like we normally would, and have done in countless other emergencies before, to save lives.

“The rate of deterioration of the population here is extraordinary. Previously healthy communities are just wasting away. We’re seeing increases in children with diarrhoea, jaundice, respiratory conditions, which are all the illnesses that, when combined with extreme hunger, can kill a child in days.

“In a way it’s very simple. To prevent children dying from starvation and malnutrition, you need to be able to reach them, screen them and treat them. We need access to communities. We need to be providing supplementary feeding for children and pregnant and lactating women to prevent children becoming malnourished in the first place. And families need to have their fundamental rights to clean water, sanitation and healthcare services fulfilled to prevent more children from getting even more sick.”

Aid and access to aid is the difference between life and death for people in Gaza right now, said Save the Children, reiterating the need for full unfettered access across the Gaza Strip for aid workers and life-saving supplies to tackle malnutrition. Save the Children and other aid agencies are unable to reach many children and adults facing extreme hunger due to ongoing hostilities and a lack of available services and supplies. 

The figures from the IPC - the global scale to classify food and nutrition crises - also show that some 745,000 children and adults in Gaza face emergency conditions of food insecurity (IPC Phase 4), which is characterised by acute malnutrition and an increasing risk of hunger-related death. The report reveals that without an end to hostilities and immediate improvements in aid access, all children in Gaza are at risk of famine. 

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, at least 34 people, most of whom are children, have already died from severe malnutrition. 

The IPC report also reveals that while people in the north of Gaza have been temporarily brought back from the brink of famine, which had been predicted by the IPC for May, this is only because limited aid was allowed to reach those most in need. By contrast, in the south, the hunger situation has substantially deteriorated following renewed hostilities and decreased aid access. 

Save the Children is operating screening and health programmes in Gaza, including training of nutrition staff, screening children and adults, and the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding practices. However, the basic conditions to reach families need to be established by the government of Israel by lifting the siege and facilitating unimpeded humanitarian access across the Gaza Strip and for all parties to halt hostilities.

Save the Children has been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children since 1953, and are currently working around the clock to get vital supplies to families in Gaza - drinking water, food, hygiene products, mattresses, blankets, learning, shelter kits, toys, and games. We are providing mental health and psychosocial support to children and their families and delivering cash to families to help them to buy essentials. In all sectors, we are collaborating with our Community Engagement Workers, and have provided training in nutrition screening, education, and child protection. They are also supporting recreational activities and are currently assisting our partners in distributions.

For further enquiries please contact: media@savethechildren.org.uk / +44(0)7831 650409