Two-month-old baby dies of malnutrition amid UN warning of 'explosion' in child deaths

The international organisation says 2.2 million people are on the brink of famine

Internally displaced Palestinian children queue with pots and containers waiting to receive food provided by Arab and Palestinian donors in Deir Al Balah city in the central Gaza Strip. EPA
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A two-month-old baby died of malnutrition in Gaza's Al Shifa Hospital, the health ministry said on Sunday, as the UN warned of an "explosion" in child deaths since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war in October.

The baby, named Mahmoud Fattouh, passed away after his family were unable to find food and milk to feed him.

“We saw a woman carrying her baby, screaming for help. Her pale baby seemed to be taking his last breath,” a paramedic who helped his parents bring him to the hospital said.

Mahmoud was rushed to Al Shifa Hospital, located in Gaza city, and was diagnosed with acute malnutrition.

His death comes as the UN warned of an “explosion” in child deaths due to Israel’s war on the besieged enclave that has worsened an increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians.

The international organisation has warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.

The UN's World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation”. Supplies are running out as aid agencies are unable to enter certain areas amid heavy Israeli bombing.

Aid lorries that do get through to Gaza have faced looting as well as the dangers on the ground.

In northern Gaza's Jabilia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.

“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.

Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.

Gaza farmer struggles to keep his livestock alive

Gaza farmer struggles to keep his livestock alive

Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza”.

Israel said that 13,000 lorries carrying aid supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war. Under prewar conditions, an average of 500 lorries entered Gaza, the UN says, meaning that at day 143 of the war, over 71,000 lorries should have entered the strip.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed more than 29,600 people, mostly women and children, Gaza's Health Ministry said.

The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

Fleeing south

Food shortages have pushed some Gazans to flee from the north to the south of the strip despite heavy Israeli bombardment and fears of an imminent ground offensive against the southernmost city of Rafah.

“I came from the north of the Gaza Strip to the south because of the starvation there. What forced me to flee was my daughter," Adel Hassan from Jabalia camp told The National.

Mr Hassan has three children, including a one-year-old who is in desperate need of milk, but was unable to find enough milk or food for his baby in northern Gaza.

“I tried to make her starch with water, but she doesn’t accept it, and keeps crying, so my wife insisted to flee even though we don’t have a place to go to, but the survival of my children is more important than a roof over our head," he said.

Soad Ibrahim, a 33 years old who lives in Gaza city with her family, refused to flee because they don't have anywhere to stay in the south.

"Our dream now is how to get flour and provide bread for our families. Before it used to be wanting to reach high positions in our jobs or to travel and discover new places," Ms Ibrahim said.

"We said our goodbyes to family and friends and we don't know when we will meet them again," she told The National.

Ms Ibrahim and her family's home was twice targeted by Israeli forces. The second time it was completely destroyed by an Israeli drone.

She told The National that she didn't think they would survive the night when the quadcopter attacked their home while nearby areas were being shelled.

Ms Ibrahim hid with her family in the kitchen, praying for their survival.

“They ruined our memories and beautiful moments in our life; I don’t know how I will continue my life normally, I survived but I have a life-free spirit," she said.

Rafah hit by air strikes

Palestinians fleeing south face face the risk of leaving one conflict zone for another as Israeli forces continue to hit the city of Rafah with air strikes ahead of an expected invasion.

AFP reported several air strikes on Saturday in Rafah, a city along the territory's southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.

The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to push into the city, the last major urban centre they have yet to enter.

Despite the concerns, including from Israel's key ally the US, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalled on Saturday night that the expected offensive on Rafah had not been abandoned.

“At the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there,” said Mr Netanyahu.

“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war's goals,” he added.

Updated: February 25, 2024, 1:13 PM