Palestinian child receives treatment

A Palestinian child receives treatment at a private children's hospital in Rafah that specializes in providing care to children suffering from malnutrition.

(Photo: Mohammed Talatene/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

'The Child Deaths We Feared Are Here,' Says UNICEF

The United Nations Children's Fund said at least 10 kids in a northern Gaza hospital have died of malnutrition and dehydration—and many more are "fighting for their lives."

The United Nations Children's Fund said Sunday that at least 10 children have reportedly died of starvation and dehydration at a hospital in northern Gaza as Israeli forces continue to obstruct and attack aid convoys, fueling desperation across the territory.

Adele Khodr, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said malnutrition is ravaging the Gaza Strip and warned that child deaths "are likely to rapidly increase" unless Israel ends its military assault and allows humanitarian aid to flow unimpeded.

"The child deaths we feared are here," said Khodr. "At least ten children have reportedly died because of dehydration and malnutrition in Kamal Adwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip in recent days. There are likely more children fighting for their lives somewhere in one of Gaza's few remaining hospitals, and likely even more children in the north unable to obtain care at all."

"These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable, and entirely preventable," Khodr added.

Nearly half of the more than 30,000 people killed by U.S.-backed Israeli forces in Gaza since October have been children, and humanitarian officials have said disease and famine could soon become bigger killers than Israel's bombs and bullets. United Nations experts and human rights groups have accused the Israeli government of using starvation as a weapon of war, intentionally depriving Gazans of food and other necessities.

A group of U.N. officials warned last month that an "explosion in preventable child deaths" was looming.

"The sense of helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realizing that lifesaving aid, just a few kilometers away, is being kept out of reach, must be as unbearable, but worse still are the anguished cries of those babies slowly perishing under the world's gaze," Khodr said Sunday. "The lives of thousands more babies and children depend on urgent action being taken now."

Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said that "these deaths are unlawful, the result of acts by Israel authorities which engineered famine."

"They knew the likely outcome of their actions but persisted. Over weeks and months," Callamard added. "And all states that cut UNRWA funding, sold weapons, and supported Israel bear responsibility too."

While virtually all of Gaza's population is in need of food, conditions are particularly dire in the northern part of the territory. Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Program, told members of the U.N. Security Council last week that "if nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza."

With aid deliveries plummeting due to Israel's obstruction, families have been forced to eat grass, leaves, animal feed, and scraps left behind by rats. On Saturday, the U.S. airdropped 38,000 meals into Gaza—a move that critics said would do little to slow the rapid spread of hunger across the Palestinian territory.

Melanie Ward, CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians, described conditions in Gaza as "the fastest decline in a population's nutrition status ever recorded."

"That means children are being starved at the fastest rate the world has ever seen," Ward said in an appearance on CNN. "We could save them all. But we're not being able to."

This story has been updated to include comment from Agnes Callamard of Amnesty International.

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