At least 15 children die of malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza as Biden air drops criticised as ‘not enough’

The news came as vice president Kamala Harris called for an ‘immediate’ ceasefire

Dan Gooding
Monday 04 March 2024 20:15 GMT
Moment US military airdrops aid into Gaza

At least 15 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza, reports over the weekend suggested, with Unicef saying they were entirely preventable.

The news came after the United States made its first airdrops of aid into Gaza at the start of the weekend and the White House called for a ceasefire to ease the situation.

Gaza’s health ministry said that it feared for other children who had been hospitalised because of malnutrition and dehydration.

UNICEF’s Regional Director in the Middle East, Adele Khodr, said on Sunday that ten deaths had happened in the past few days.

“There are likely more children fighting for their lives somewhere in one of Gaza’s few remaining hospitals, and likely even more children in the north unable to obtain care at all,” Ms Khodr said. “These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable.”

The US has dropped some 38,000 meals into Gaza, as part of a “sustained effort” to increase aid making it into the embattled territory.

However, some have criticised the move, saying that the US has not done enough so far.

A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on 3 March 2024
A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on 3 March 2024 (AFP via Getty Images)

“Airdrops, we think, are a bit of theatre,” the head of Save the Children, Janti Soeripto, told Sky News.

“Essentially what we need is opening of crossings, more trucks of supplies coming in, we need a ceasefire, we need safe and unfettered access to the communities.”

That call for a ceasefire got a boost on Sunday when Vice President Kamala Harris said one needed to happen immediately.

“[G]iven the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire — for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table,” Ms Harris said during a speech in Selma, Alabama, on the anniversary of the civil rights march later known as “Bloody Sunday”.

Unicef believes that nearly 16 pe cent of children under two years old are “acutely malnourished” in the north of Gaza, while 5 per cent are around Rafah in the south.

“People are hungry, exhausted and traumatised. Many are clinging to life,” Ms Kohodr added.

She called for UNICEF and other humanitarian organisations to be allowed into Gaza without any impediment, to try and prevent a rapid rise in child deaths.

“The sense of helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realising that life-saving aid, just a few kilometres away, is being kept out of reach, must be unbearable, but worse still are the anguished cries of those babies slowly perishing under the world’s gaze,” Ms Khodr continued. “The lives of thousands more babies and children depend on urgent action being taken now.”

Ms Harris promised on Sunday that more aid routes would be established.

“As President Joe Biden said on Friday, the United States is committed to urgently get more lifesaving assistance to innocent Palestinians in need,” she said.

As the Israel-Hamas War nears the six-month mark, following the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, it’s reported that at least 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict.

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