NewsFamine in Gaza is imminent, with immediate and long-term health consequences

Famine in Gaza is imminent, with immediate and long-term health consequences

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Geneva- March 2024- The latest analysis from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) partnership warns that the situation in Gaza is catastrophic. With northern Gaza facing imminent famine and the rest of the Strip at risk as well.

“The IPC announcement reflects the dire situation that the people of Gaza are facing,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Before this crisis, there was enough food in Gaza to feed the population. Malnutrition was a rare occurrence. Now, people are dying, and many more are sick. Over a million people are expected to face catastrophic hunger unless significantly more food is allowed to enter Gaza.”

Before the recent months’ hostilities, 0.8% of children under 5 years of age were acutely malnourished. Today’s report shows that as of February in the northern governorates, that figure is between 12.4 and 16.5%.

Without a significant and immediate increase in deliveries of food, water and other essential supplies, conditions will continue deteriorating. Virtually all households are already skipping meals every day and adults are reducing their meals so that children can eat.

Also Read: People killed in Gaza City while waiting for food aid

The current situation will have long-term effects on the lives and health of thousands. Right now, children are dying from the combined effects of malnutrition and disease. Malnutrition makes people more vulnerable to getting severely ill, experiencing slow recovery, or dying when they are infected with a disease. The long-term effects of malnutrition, low consumption of nutrient-rich foods, repeated infections, and lack of hygiene and sanitation services slow children’s overall growth. This compromises the health and well-being of an entire future generation.

WHO and partners have been carrying out high-risk missions to deliver medicines. This includes fuel and food for health workers and their patients, but our requests to deliver supplies are often blocked or refused. Damaged roads and continuous fighting, including in and close to hospitals, mean deliveries are few and slow.

The IPC report confirms what we, our UN partners, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been witnessing and reporting for months. When our missions reach hospitals, we meet exhausted and hungry health workers who ask us for food and water. We see patients trying to recover from life-saving surgeries and losses of limbs, or sick with cancer or diabetes, mothers who have just given birth, or newborn babies, all suffering from hunger and the diseases that stalk it.

WHO, as a partner of the Nutrition Cluster, is currently supporting a nutrition stabilization center in Rafah to treat children with severe acute malnutrition with medical complications, who are at the highest risk of imminent death if not urgently treated. We are supporting the establishment of two additional centres: one in the north of Gaza at Kamal Adwan hospital and one at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Rafah. WHO is supporting the pediatric wards of Al-Aqsa and Al-Najjar hospitals through the provision of nutrition supplies and medicines as well as training of medical personnel, and the promotion of appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, including breastfeeding.

WHO has trained health workers on how to recognize and treat malnutrition with complications. It is supporting hospitals and the centers with medical supplies for the children being treated.

All key hospitals in Gaza require additional nutrition and stabilization centers for enhanced medical support. Communities themselves will need the support to scale up the management of malnutrition locally.

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