Friday, March 1, 2024

20,000 babies born into Gaza war, 135,000 minors at ‘severe risk’ of malnutrition: UNICEF

Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine talking to children in front of Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis southern the Gaza Strip.

According to UNICEF, nearly 20,000 babies have been born into the current war in Gaza, while 135,000 children in the Gaza Strip under the age of two are at “severe risk” of malnutrition.

Noting that the number equals one baby born about every 10 minutes since October 7, Tess Ingram, a UNICEF spokesperson, told a press briefing in Geneva: “The situation of pregnant women and newborns in the Gaza Strip is beyond belief, and it demands intensified and immediate actions”.

Of the nearly 25,000 people reported to have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the escalation in hostilities, up to 70 per cent are reported to be women and children.

“The already precarious situation of infant and maternal mortality has worsened as the healthcare system collapses,” Ingram stressed, adding that mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing adequate medical care, nutrition, and protection before, during, and after birth.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their babies are living in “inhumane conditions, makeshift shelters (with) poor nutrition and unsafe water”.

According to WHO, only 15 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are functional, albeit partially: nine in the south and six in the north. In Deir al Balah and Khan Younis, three hospitals – Al Aqsa, Nasser, and Gaza European – are at risk of closure due to the issuance of evacuation orders in adjacent areas and the ongoing conduct of hostilities nearby.

Hospitals in the north have been offering limited maternity, trauma, and emergency care services.

According to the MoH in Gaza, occupancy rates are reaching 206 per cent in inpatient departments and 250 per cent in intensive care units. 

On 18 January, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban said: “Once aid enters the Gaza Strip, our ability to distribute it becomes a matter of life and death. It is essential to lift access restrictions, ensure reliable ground communications, and facilitate the movement of humanitarian supplies to ensure that those who have been without assistance for several days receive much-needed assistance. We have to get commercial traffic flowing in Gaza, so that markets can reopen, and families are less dependent on relief.” 

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