‘On the Brink of Death’ – WHO Warns Newborn Babies in Gaza are Dying

Premature babies in Gaza are struggling the most. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“What doctors and medical staff are telling us is more and more they are seeing the effects of starvation.”

Increasing numbers of children in the besieged Gaza Strip are on “the brink of death” from acute hunger, caused by five months of intense Israeli bombardment and constant aid access denials, according to a UN News report.

“What doctors and medical staff are telling us is more and more they are seeing the effects of starvation; they’re seeing newborn babies simply dying because they (are) too low birth weight,” said Dr Margaret Harris from the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

“Increasingly, we’re seeing children that are at the point, brink of death that need refeeding,” the WHO spokesperson told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday, the report stated.

Rising Malnutrition Threatens Children’s Lives in Gaza – UNICEF

Her comments came a day after global nutrition experts warned that famine could happen “anytime” in northern Gaza.

While infants and young children are among the least able to cope with chronic hunger according to WHO, medical teams in the war-shattered enclave have been admitting increasing numbers of dangerously underweight pregnant women, the report said.

The complications that these pregnant women experience occur “if you’re trying to carry a pregnancy and you lack the nutrition,” said Dr Harris.

“This is entirely man-made, everything we’re seeing medically; this was a territory where the health system functioned well,” stressed Dr. Harris, adding that malnutrition was “non-existent”.

“It was a population that could feed itself,” she insisted.

Stabilization Centers

To assist the most vulnerable, WHO is establishing malnutrition stabilization centers. However, according to Dr Harris, progress has been hampered by a lack of safety and ongoing aid access obstacles, the report said.

“We’ve set one up in the south, we’re looking at doing it in the north…but the problem is we have to be able to bring the materials in – but we can’t bring them in at the scale and to the people without the access and the safety. So there is no answer until there’s a ceasefire.”

She added that “The desperation is so great,” and insisted that aid needed to be allowed into Gaza at a “huge, huge scale”.

When that happens, the relief supplies “will be absorbed like sand”, she reportedly said.

IPC Report

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the findings of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Report on Gaza published on Monday as an “appalling indictment of conditions on the ground for civilians”.

“Palestinians in Gaza are enduring horrifying levels of hunger and suffering,” Guterres said.

“This is the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded by the Integrated Food Security Classification system – anywhere, anytime,” he added.

The Secretary-General warned that “This is an entirely man-made disaster, and the report makes clear that it can be halted.”

Rising Malnutrition Threatens Children’s Lives in Gaza – UNICEF

He called on the Israeli authorities “to ensure complete and unfettered access for humanitarian goods throughout Gaza and for the international community to fully support our humanitarian efforts.”

“We must act now to prevent the unthinkable, the unacceptable and the unjustifiable,” Guterres stressed.

‘Israel’s Extensive Restrictions’

Also on Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk stressed that “The projected imminent famine in Gaza can and must be prevented.”

He insisted “This catastrophe is human-made and was entirely preventable.”

“The situation of hunger, starvation and famine is a result of Israel’s extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods, displacement of most of the population, as well as the destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure,” Türk stated.

He emphasized that Israel must be pressured to allow “the unimpeded entry and distribution” of aid.

“The clock is ticking. Everyone, especially those with influence, must insist that Israel acts to facilitate the unimpeded entry and distribution of needed humanitarian assistance and commercial goods to end starvation and avert all risk of famine.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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