More than three months into the Gaza war, the humanitarian, living, health, and psychological conditions of children have gone from bad to worse. About ten children have lost one or both of their legs every day since October 7, according to Save the Children, which relied on a UNICEF report published on December 19, 2023, which indicates that more than a thousand children in Gaza have lost one or both of their legs since the outbreak of the current war. This also means that the number is undoubtedly higher today. The statement explained that many of these operations were performed on children without anaesthesia due to the paralysis of the health system in Gaza and the significant shortage of doctors, nurses, and medical supplies.
According to Save the Children, the nine hospitals partially operating south of the Gaza Strip are operating at three times their capacity while facing a severe shortage of basic supplies and fuel. Furthermore, only 30% of paramedics and medical staff are still working in Gaza, according to the World Health Organization.
In short, the Gaza Strip is turning into an uninhabitable place, according to the words of UNRWA, which described the blockade as “the silent killer of people.” As for UNICEF, it confirmed that the intensification of conflict, malnutrition, and diseases in the Gaza Strip creates a deadly cycle that threatens more than 1.1 million children, explaining that the living conditions of children continue to deteriorate rapidly, which increases the risk of their escalating deaths.
In a report early this year, UNICEF indicated that diarrhoea cases in children increased by 50% in just one week, as cases among those under the age of five rose from 48,000 to 71,000 during the period starting on December 17. This is equivalent to 3,200 cases of diarrhoea per day. Severe and prolonged diarrhoea seriously aggravates poor health and malnutrition in children, exposing them to a high risk of death.
Forced displacement constitutes an additional stressful factor that negatively affects children’s health conditions. For example, the population of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, is 280,000 people. Still, it now hosts more than a million displaced people, according to UNRWA estimates, which places enormous pressure on its infrastructure, vital supplies, and health facilities, which have basically collapsed, and “the crowded streets (in it) are witnessing a worrying spread of diseases.”
On the nutrition level, UNICEF explained that 90% of children under the age of two are now exposed to acute food poverty, noting that the deteriorating situation raises concerns about acute malnutrition and deaths beyond the thresholds of famine. The organisation expressed its concern about the nutrition of more than 155,000 pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, as well as more than 135,000 children under the age of two, given their special nutritional needs and weaknesses.
“An immediate ceasefire” is a call all international humanitarian organisations repeat. UNICEF repeated this call for humanitarian reasons and also called for the resumption of commercial activity to enable the refilling of stores, as did UNRWA, which warned that “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is a matter of life and death.” As for “Save the Children,” it stressed that a definitive ceasefire alone would end the killing and maiming of civilians and would allow the entry of much-needed humanitarian aid, including essential medicines for wounded children, in the required volume and the needed places.