Palestinian children carry pots as they queue to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen, amid shortages in food supplies [Source: Reuters]
In battered, hard-to-reach north Gaza, rare aid deliveries get mobbed by desperate, hungry Palestinians and aid workers report seeing people thin and visibly starving with sunken eyes.
Hunger stalks the entire Gaza Strip, the tiny enclave where 2.3 million people have been living under Israel’s bombardment since Oct. 7 as it battles Hamas militants. The United Nations warned this week that pockets of the territory face famine.
While areas near the Egyptian border get limited supplies of imported food, people in the north and centre of the strip, where fighting has been fiercest, face catastrophe aid workers say.
No comprehensive data on hunger is available for Gaza, with aid agencies struggling to move and communicate amid the fighting. They plan to assess malnutrition by measuring around children’s arms for signs of wasting flesh.
A U.N.-backed report in December said the whole population of Gaza faced crisis levels of hunger and a growing risk of famine.
Medics in Gaza hospitals describe babies born sick to malnourished mothers, infants losing weight, mothers unable to produce breast milk and injured patients too weak from hunger to fight off infection.
In a Rafah hospital ward, paediatric doctor Jabr al-Shaer pointed to a baby whose weight had plummeted to 5.5 kg (12 pounds) from 7.5 kg a month and a half ago.
His mother, Shoruq Shaaban, who is breastfeeding her baby, has little to eat herself. Like most other people in southern Gaza she now lives on a little bread and canned food.
The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF projects that over the coming weeks more than 10,000 children in Gaza risk wasting, one of the most serious results of malnutrition, which can stunt physical growth and brain development.