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Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

June 24, 2024 at 3:30 pm

Palestinian Ahmed Issam Al-Jabour, a child whose health is deteriorating due to malnutrition, is viewed struggling to survive at Europe Hospital in Khan Yunis, Gaza on June 09, 2024 [Hani Alshaer – Anadolu Agency]

Medics in Gaza said, on Monday, they were working to step up screening of young children for severe malnutrition amid fears that hunger is spreading as people flee to new areas, Reuters reports.

Aid group, International Medical Corps (IMC), and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign, one of its doctors, Mumawwar Said, told Reuters by phone.

“With the displacement, communities are settling in new locations that do not have access to clean water, or there is not adequate access to food,” he said. “We fear there are more cases being missed.”

Over the weekend, families were already coming into an IMC clinic in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, opened after the agency said it had to shut down two centres in the southern city of Rafah due to insecurity.

Five-year-old Jana Ayad had weighed just 9 kilograms when she arrived, suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting, Nutrition Officer, Raghda Ibrahim Qeshta, told Reuters as she carefully held the child.

“My daughter was dying in front of me,” said Nasma Ayad as she sat next to the bed. “I didn’t know what to do.”

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Jana had started putting on some weight after treatment, medics said, but she was still painfully thin with her ribs showing as she lay listlessly in her bunny pyjamas.

Staff can gauge nutrition levels by measuring the circumference of children’s arms. During a Reuters cameraman’s short visit, at least two of the measurements were in the yellow band, indicating a risk of malnutrition.

A group of UN-led aid agencies estimates that around 7 per cent of Gazan children may be acutely malnourished, compared with 0.8 per cent before the Israel-Palestine conflict began on 7 October.

Until now, the worst of severe hunger has been in the north, with a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine in March.

But aid workers worry it could spread to central and southern areas due to the upheaval around Rafah that has displaced more than 1 million people and constrained supply flows through southern corridors.

Israel launched its military operation in Gaza after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

Israel says it has expanded efforts to facilitate aid flows into Gaza and blames international aid agencies for distribution problems inside the enclave.

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