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Gaza is starving and Israel continues its war on Hamas

Highlights: Aid workers say they see emaciated people, starving, as evidenced by the shape of their sunken eyes. Aid workers say that areas near the Egyptian border receive limited supplies of imported food. A UN-backed report in December said that all Gazans face crisis-level hunger and a growing risk of famine. Paramedics in Gaza hospitals spoke of sick babies being born to malnourished mothers, infants losing weight, mothers unable to breastfeed their babies, and infected people who were unable to resist infection.

In the northern Gaza Strip, which has been crushed by Israeli strikes and has become difficult to access, crowds of hungry and desperate Palestinians attack scarce aid shipments, and relief workers say they see emaciated people, starving, as evidenced by the shape of their sunken eyes.

Hunger is spreading its claws throughout the Gaza Strip, where 2.3 million people have lived under Israeli bombardment since October 7, after the outbreak of war with Hamas.

The United Nations warned this week that pockets of the region were at risk of famine.

Aid workers say that areas near the Egyptian border receive limited supplies of imported food, but there is a disaster facing people in the north and center of the Strip, where the fiercest fighting is taking place.

“The food situation in the north is absolutely horrific,” said Sean Casey, coordinator of the WHO emergency medical team in Gaza. “There is almost no food available and everyone we talk to is desperate for food.”

Comprehensive data on hunger in Gaza is not available because relief agencies find it difficult to move and communicate in the midst of fighting.

The agencies plan to assess malnutrition by measuring the circumference of children's arms for signs of wasting and loss of body mass.

A UN-backed report in December said that all Gazans face crisis-level hunger and a growing risk of famine.

Paramedics in Gaza hospitals spoke of sick babies being born to malnourished mothers, infants losing weight, mothers whose breasts dried up and they were unable to breastfeed their babies, and infected people who were so weakened by hunger that they were unable to resist infection.

In a ward at Rafah Hospital, pediatrician Jabr Al-Shaer pointed to a child whose weight had decreased to 5.5 kilograms after weighing 7.5 kilograms a month and a half ago.

The doctor said, "Of course, this child, a month and a half ago, weighed seven and a half kilograms. During a month and a half, he lost about two kilograms. Then (now) his weight is five and a half kilograms. Of course, malnutrition for the mother and malnutrition for the child. There is no milk available. Of course, all of this affects the child’s growth during the course of the year." In a month and a half, he loses two kilograms. This is a bad thing, and of course it affects the child’s immunity, leaving him constantly having chest infections and intestinal infections.”

His mother, Shorouk Shaaban, who is breastfeeding her child, has little food to survive on.

Like most others in southern Gaza, she now survives on little bread and canned food.

Malnutrition

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) expects that more than ten thousand children in Gaza are at risk of wasting and abnormal weight loss in the coming weeks, which is one of the most serious consequences of malnutrition that may hinder body and brain development.

“We saw a lot of very emaciated people sitting and staring into space, looking weak and exhausted,” said Nick Maynard, a British surgeon who worked in central Gaza in December and early January with the Palestinian Medical Aid Society. “There is very clear evidence that there are people who are now suffering from malnutrition.” ".

Ayadil Saparbekov, a doctor with the World Health Organization who recently visited northern Gaza, said he saw children and adults showing signs of emaciation and abnormal weight loss.

He talked about people coming begging for food and raising their hands to their mouths in a plea for food.

He said, "I saw children on the streets who were clearly suffering from malnutrition by looking at their faces. Their emaciated condition was clear. Their hands were thin and their eyes were sunken."

He said he thought two or three out of every 10 children he saw fit that description.

At the beginning of the war, after a Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 people, Israel announced that it was cutting off all supplies to Gaza.

It later agreed to allow humanitarian aid to enter, but what enters the coastal enclave now is much less than it was before October 7.

Health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say the Israeli military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 25,900 Palestinians since October 7.

Aid agencies say Israeli inspections are hampering the delivery of aid to Gaza and that the army is preventing its distribution outside the southern area surrounding Rafah.

Israeli government spokesman Elon Levy denied imposing restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and attributed any problems to the United Nations' ability to distribute.

But Abeer Atifa, a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, said there were “systematic restrictions” on aid reaching the north, and quoted the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as saying that Israel had only allowed the entry of about a quarter of the aid shipments that were intended to arrive there.

Despair

Juliette Touma, spokeswoman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), believes that about 200,000 people remain in the north.

Videos on social media verified by Reuters showed chaotic scenes as crowds of desperate people rushed toward aid.

Maynard, the British surgeon, described a seven- or eight-year-old child approaching him in the hospital and asking for food.

He added that the child "said that all his family members were killed and he had not eaten for three days."

Even in the south, people lack what to subsist on, and Gazans say they have resorted to grinding animal feed to cook dry bread that they can hardly bite.

Palestinians interviewed by Reuters said they often go days without eating or can only eat once a day.

Commercially available food is almost unaffordable.

Heather Stubo of Action Against Hunger said that the greatest threat in Gaza is severe acute malnutrition, which occurs when people do not get the vitamins, minerals, and proteins that enable the body to perform its functions.

In this case, children are at greater risk of death.

Before the war, Maryam from Gaza City fed her family a breakfast consisting of eggs, milk, cheese, beans, falafel, hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bread.

Now, at best, all they find is a piece of bread with some ground thyme.

Lunch or dinner is now a small portion of canned sardines or tuna shared by a large number of people.

They are forced to make do with two meals.

Maryam recently found eggs in the market for the first time in months, and paid more than four times what she had previously paid.

She said that the children jumped with joy when they saw the eggs.