UNICEF warns Gaza witnessing worst level of child malnutrition worldwide

Spokesperson for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) James Elder has told Al Jazeera the besieged Gaza Strip has the worst levels of malnutrition of any place in the world.

“Gaza is now experiencing the worst level of malnutrition for children,” Elder said on Friday.

“There is no safe area in Gaza, and civilians must be provided with water and shelter. The [Israeli] restrictions imposed make it difficult for us to carry out our work in the Gaza Strip,” Elder added.

Initial United Nations data has shown that nearly one in 10 children in Gaza below the age of five are now suffering from acute malnutrition, as humanitarian groups report that Israeli forces are consistently blocking aid from large swaths of the strip.

The UN children’s agency has also warned against an Israeli military escalation in Rafah noting there are more than 600,000 children in the area.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said an attack on Rafah would mark “another devastating turn in a war” that has killed nearly 28,000 people.

She stated it could leave thousands more dead through violence or lack of essential services, and further disrupt humanitarian assistance.

“We need Gaza’s last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems to stay functional,” Russell continued, adding, “Without them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives.”

Despite the International Court of Justice’s provisional ruling, Israel continues its onslaught on the Gaza Strip, where at least 27,947 Palestinians have been killed, including 12,000 children and 8,190 women, and 67,459 injured since Oct. 7, according to Palestinian health authorities.

The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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