Number of children dying of dehydration, malnutrition in Gaza 'will skyrocket' without cease-fire: UNICEF

The situation is "deteriorating every hour" the UNICEF spokesman said.

March 4, 2024, 5:53 PM

The number of children in Gaza dying from dehydration and malnutrition "will skyrocket" if there is not a cease-fire, according to UNICEF spokesman James Elder.

Elder called the deaths of children from dehydration and malnutrition, which UNICEF said it is now witnessing inside Gaza, "entirely predictable," "man-made" and "preventable."

He described the levels of malnutrition among young children in the south of Gaza as "unacceptable and dangerous."

However, he said the levels of malnutrition and dehydration among children in the north of Gaza are "roughly three times higher" than in the south, because of the lower levels of humanitarian assistance that are reaching the northern parts of the strip.

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip Mar. 4, 2024.
Mohammed Salem/Reuters

UNICEF said its fear is that we will now start to see "a spiraling amount of deaths" among children, linked to malnutrition.

"Normally malnutrition is an underlying cause of death. A child will be killed by a disease. When we talk of hearing of children dying of dehydration, this is a great fear because this can lead to huge numbers of children dying very quickly," Elder told ABC News in an interview from Geneva.

Elder said children are now dying in Gaza because they are dehydrating because doctors are unable to get food into their bodies.

He described the level of suffering a child would go through in this scenario and called it "about as dark as it can get for a population."

The situation is "deteriorating every hour" the UNICEF spokesman said.

The fact that "world-class medical care" is "literally around the corner" but is inaccessible for these sick children is "darkly unique," he said.

Elder believes it is not too late to avert a humanitarian catastrophe but said "we are getting close to some kind of point of no return."

"If there was a cease-fire today, we would have an absolute humanitarian crisis at the highest scale that the UN would determine," Elder said.

He called the humanitarian picture "as bad as it's ever been" in Gaza.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 30,534 people have been killed and more than 71,000 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to Gaza's Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to the Israeli officials.

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