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March 18, 2024 (EIRNS)—A UNICEF report, issued March 15, indicates that 31%, or 1 in 3 children under 2 years of age in the northern Gaza Strip, suffers from malnutrition. This is a 15.6% increase from January, reports the United Nations Children’s Fund and indicates that malnutrition is spreading fast, and reaching “devastating and unprecedented levels,” due to the “wide-reaching impacts of the war and ongoing restrictions on aid delivery.”

UNICEF has previously reported on the deaths of children from malnutrition and dehydration, a figure now estimated to be 23 in Northern Gaza. In February, UNICEF and its partners conducted nutrition screenings in the north, and found that 4.5% of children living in shelters and health centers suffered from severe forms of wasting—the most life-threatening form of malnutrition. UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell remarked, “the speed at which this catastrophic child malnutrition crisis in Gaza has unfolded is shocking, especially when desperately needed assistance has been at the ready just a few miles away…. Instead, the situation for children is getting worse by each passing day. Our efforts in providing life-saving aid are being hampered by unnecessary restrictions, and those are costing children their lives.”

Screenings conducted for the first time in Khan Younis, in the central part of Gaza, found that 28% of children under the age of 2 have severe malnutrition, 10% of whom suffer from severe wasting. UNICEF pointed out that in Rafah, where people supposedly have more access to aid, screenings among children under 2 found a doubling in those who were acutely malnourished, from 5% in January to 10% in February.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that famine is projected to occur anytime, between now and May in Gaza’s northern governorates, according to a new report published on March 18 by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) global initiative. FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol stated that the updated IPC analysis “validates what we all feared—a deepening and rapid deterioration of the food security situation in Gaza.” Half the population is facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity (1.11 million). “This reaches the highest ever recorded level, unlike anything we have ever seen before.” In December, the IPC report indicated that famine was likely. But now, it is imminent, if no steps are taken to cease hostilities and provide humanitarian access. “It could already be occurring,” Bechdol warned.