Friday, March 1, 2024

Gaza: UNICEF finds 90% of children under two facing “severe food poverty”

About 90 per cent of children under two in Gaza are consuming two or fewer food groups, a UNICEF survey has found. One in every four pregnant or breastfeeding women consumed only one food group the day before the survey. The risk of famine is increasing every day. Photo by UNRWA

On Friday, UNICEF announced that a survey conducted on 26 December found that about 90 per cent of children under two years of age in Gaza are consuming two or fewer food groups. Most children are reportedly only getting grains (including bread) or milk, meeting the definition of “severe food poverty.”

Dietary diversity for pregnant and breastfeeding women is reportedly severely compromised with 25 per cent having only consumed one food group the day before the survey, and almost 65 per cent only two groups.

Malnutrition is particularly worrisome for over 155,000 pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as more than 135,000 children under two, given their specific nutrition needs and vulnerability, the UN body stated.

On 5 January, UNICEF’s Executive Director stated that “time is running out. Many children already face severe acute malnutrition in Gaza. As the threat of famine intensifies, hundreds of thousands more young children could soon be severely malnourished, with some at risk of death. We cannot allow that to happen.”   

According to UNICEF, cases of diarrhoea in children under five years of age rose from 48,000 to 71,000 in just one week starting 17 December. This is equivalent to 3,200 new cases of diarrhoea per day. Before the escalation in hostilities, an average of 2,000 cases of diarrhoea in children under five were recorded per month.

It has been reported that displaced children and adults are unable to maintain the necessary hygiene levels, with some resorting to open defecation. The inability to prevent diseases is attributed to the lack of safe water and sanitation due to damaged or destroyed essential water and sanitation systems in the Gaza Strip.

Additionally, UNRWA reported that diaper supplies are not sufficient, as they cover only 25 per cent of the babies in shelters. 

On 5 January, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided wheat flour, salt, and yeast to nine bakeries in Deir al Balah and Rafah to produce bread at a subsidized price.

Six of the nine bakeries have started operations, while three remain non-functional, as a result of evacuation orders, but are expected to be operational soon. Bread is the most requested food item, particularly as many families lack the basic means of cooking.

On 4 January, WFP reached more than 100,000 people with a rolling distribution of food parcels sufficient for 10 days for each family in Rafah, Khan Younis and Deir al Balah.  

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