UN Warns Of tragic, Avoidable Surge In Child Deaths In Besieged Gaza

UNITED NATIONS, (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 22nd Nov, 2023) The United Nations has warned that a “tragic … entirely avoidable surge” in child deaths is expected in ravaged Gaza, where on average a child is killed every 10 minutes from Israel‘s devastating attacks.

“About 160 children are killed every day; that’s one every 10 minutes,” said World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier on Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, he said that “every 10 minutes, two children are injured” and that children and families have been dying “in terrifying circumstances”.

The UN Children’s Agency (Unicef) warned that the number could skyrocket due to the serious additional threat of a mass disease outbreak in the besieged Palestinian territory. The UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said:

If youngsters continue to have restricted access to water and sanitation in Gaza, we will see a tragic yet entirely avoidable surge in the number of children dying.

“The death toll among children is sickening,” he said, noting that more than 5,350 Palestinian children had reportedly been killed, according to Gaza health authorities.

Grief is becoming embedded in Gaza. So this then is a stark warning: without sufficient fuel, and sufficient water, conditions for children will plummet.

He said the daily minimum need in emergency situations was 15 litres of water per person, but that in parts of Gaza as little as three litres a day is available, and none on some days.

Pointing to “a desperate lack of water, faecal matter strewn across densely populated settlements [and] an unacceptable lack of latrines”, Elder said it was a “perfect storm for the spread of disease”.

According to the WHO, around 180 babies are born every day in the war-shattered enclave.

More than 20 of them need specialized care, just like the infants from Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where 31 premature and low-birthweight babies in intensive care were evacuated over the weekend. The original number of infants was 33 but two died “because of the lack of care available to them,” Lindmeier said.

Highlighting the dire situation all over Gaza where “less than half” of the enclave’s hospitals and clinics now function “in any capacity”, the WHO official said that plans were continuing to evacuate the remaining 200 patients and 50 health workers from Al-Shifa hospital, as a desperate, last resort.

“When these people – the doctors, the nurses, the patients – are asking to be evacuated, that’s really the last resort,” he said, adding that it meant “that the situation on the ground has grown so dire that the only other alternative is facing what they think certain death”.

The WHO spokesperson explained that such evacuations were extremely complicated and dangerous, requiring coordination with Israeli Defense Forces and with Hamas “to get to a safer place inside Gaza”.

The evacuation teams will “need time, they need preparation, they need specialized equipment, they need safe passage”, Lindmeier said.

According to the UN health agency, Gaza is now home to thousands of injured and critically ill people. There has been a sharp increase in diseases such as diarrhoea, and respiratory infections, along with “almost no water, fuel, food, electricity, or medical supplies”.

Some 72,000 cases of upper respiratory infections have been reported in displacement shelters with close to 49,000 cases of diarrhoea and over half of these among children under age five, it was pointed out.]. This compares with a pre-war monthly average of 2,000 cases in 2021, 2022.

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