Nine Out of Ten Children in Gaza Suffer from Malnutrition: UNICEF Report

by Ella

6 Jun 2024 – Approximately 90 percent of children in Gaza face significant nutritional deficiencies, posing severe threats to their survival, growth, and development, according to a report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday.

The report highlights the catastrophic impact of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, detailing the collapse of food and health systems in the region. Between December last year and April this year, one in ten children in Gaza survived on diets consisting of two or fewer food groups per day.


UNICEF’s findings reveal an alarming increase in nutritional deprivation, with 65 percent of children consuming diets with only one or no food groups in February— a sixfold increase from the first half of December last year.


Humanitarian Crisis

While Israel maintains that it places no restrictions on humanitarian supplies for Gaza’s civilians and has blamed the United Nations for slow deliveries, the situation on the ground tells a different story. Emerging pockets of famine have resulted in child deaths due to malnutrition and dehydration. The international community, including Israel’s closest allies, has increased pressure on Israel to allow more food into the region.


The UNICEF report emphasizes that military actions have severely damaged food systems and imposed significant restrictions on the import of commercial goods and humanitarian supplies. This has deprived millions of Palestinians of the essential food, water, and fuel they need to survive.


Global Child Food Poverty

The report, titled Child Food Poverty: Nutrition Deprivation in Early Childhood, examines the state of food poverty among young children in 100 countries. It warns that more than one in four children under the age of five live in severe food poverty, with over 180 million children globally facing adverse impacts on their growth and development.

Of these children, 65 percent are concentrated in just 20 countries. South Asia accounts for approximately 64 million affected children, while sub-Saharan Africa has about 59 million.

The report underscores the rapid pace at which children in conflict and disaster-stricken areas, such as Gaza and Somalia, are being placed at risk of life-threatening malnutrition.

Addressing the Crisis

Harriet Torlesse, one of the report’s lead writers, expressed shock at the ongoing crisis, stating, “It is shocking in this day and age where we know what needs to be done.”

To ensure healthy development, children must consume foods from at least five of the eight food groups defined by a dietary diversity score used by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). These groups include breastmilk, eggs, dairy products, and meat, poultry, and fish.

UNICEF Chief Catherine Russell emphasized that children who consume just two food groups per day are up to 50 percent more likely to experience severe malnutrition. Malnutrition can lead to emaciation, a condition that can be fatal. Even if children survive, they face long-term consequences, including poorer performance in school and reduced earning potential as adults, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The agency noted slow progress over the past decade in addressing global child food poverty and called for enhanced social services and humanitarian aid to support the most vulnerable children.

This report serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for coordinated global efforts to address child malnutrition and ensure that every child has access to the nutrition necessary for healthy growth and development.



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