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Worst famine fears as 10th child reportedly starves to death: UN

02:06 AM Mar 03, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
worst famine fears as 10th child reportedly starves to death  un
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New Delhi, Mar 2: Repeated warnings from humanitarian organizations about desperate food insecurity and looming famine in Gaza came into focus on Friday amid reports from authorities in the enclave that a tenth child had died from malnutrition and dehydration.

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UN health agency spokesperson Christian Lindmeier stated, “The official records yesterday or this morning said there was a tenth child officially registered in a hospital as having starved to death. A very sad threshold…(but) the unofficial numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher.”

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This development followed media reports overnight that four children had died in northern Gaza’s Kamal Adwan Hospital, in addition to six other youngsters who died on Wednesday at the same facility and Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

The deepening food insecurity crisis in the enclave – which the UN Aid Coordination Office OCHA said had left one in four facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity – prompted renewed international alarm on Thursday, when more than 100 Palestinians were killed and hundreds were injured trying to get aid from a relief convoy stopped at a roundabout southwest of Gaza City.

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Swift condemnation of the incident by UN Secretary-General António Guterres – who also called for an independent investigation – was echoed by other country leaders.

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“We saw pictures from Al-Shifa (hospital) where victims of the killings were lying next to each other waiting for any treatment,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO)’s Lindmeier told journalists in Geneva.

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Water and power cut “The system in Gaza – we’ve said it many times that it’s on its knees – it’s more than on its knees,” the WHO official continued, explaining that all of Gaza’s “lifelines have more or less been cut”, notably water and electricity, since immediately after attacks on Israeli communities on 7 October.

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OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke meanwhile insisted that before the conflict “people had food; people were able to produce their food.” Today, finding food within Gaza itself, whether from farming or fishing, “is almost impossible”, Laerke continued. “Putting food on the table…has completely stopped. The very foundation for people's daily sustenance is being ripped away.”

Latest humanitarian food insecurity assessments – the IPC classification index which is used as a reference by aid agencies – indicate that the entire population of Gaza – 2.2 million people – face "crisis" levels of food insecurity, the OCHA spokesperson said. Of that number, around 1.17 million faces "emergency" levels of food insecurity, and the plight of another 500,000 is "catastrophic".

According to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, the number of aid supplies reaching Gaza in February was just half of January’s total, “and we know that January was not enough at all”, the WHO spokesperson said.

Just last week, the Council heard briefings from top humanitarian organizations, including medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, which reported that a pattern of attacks against hospitals and other civilian buildings, together with humanitarian personnel and convoys, was “either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence”.

Thursday evening, the Security Council held closed consultations but were deadlocked over a presidential statement related to the aid emergency, according to media reports. Reiterating repeated UN calls for a ceasefire, Lindmeier maintained that Thursday’s tragic aid convoy deaths had highlighted how desperate Gazans were for food, fresh water and other essentials after nearly five months of conflict.

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