Staggering rate of child deaths in Gaza not seen in any conflict in the world: UNICEF chief

More than 13,000 children have been killed, thousands injured, trapped under rubble, or have lost their parents, Russell said, adding: “It’s a horrifying situation.”

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The “staggering” rate of child deaths in Gaza has not been seen in any other conflict in the world, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell told the CBS News network on Sunday.

A Palestinian girl holds a bowl of beans before an iftar meal in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip [File: Mohammed Abed/AFP]
“I think these numbers that we’re seeing out of Gaza are just staggering. We haven’t seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world. It’s really shocking,” Russel said.

More than 13,000 children have been killed, thousands injured, trapped under rubble, or have lost their parents, Russell said, adding: “It’s a horrifying situation.”

Russell added that the profound impact on children in Gaza, stemming from the stress, grief, loss, and fear they experience, is bound to have lasting effects on them and potentially on their own offspring as well.

Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues.

“We know now that children are dying from malnutrition in Gaza,” she further added.

“I’ve seen a lot of children, unfortunately, in my job around the world who suffer from malnutrition. It is a shocking thing to see. Essentially, the body starts to consume itself because it has nothing else and it’s a painful, painful death for children,” she further stated.

She added that even if therapeutic feeding can be provided to those in need, they often endure lifelong consequences, such as stunted growth, which also affects their cognitive abilities.

“It is a lifelong challenge for these children if they survive,” she added.

Meantime the World Health Organisation says that increasing number of children in Gaza are on the brink of death due to acute hunger, with newborns “simply dying because of low birth weight”.

Israel has waged a deadly military offensive on Gaza since a cross-border incursion by the Palestinian group Hamas on Oct. 7th 2023, which killed nearly 1,200 people.

More than 31,600 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have since been killed in the enclave, and nearly 73,700 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

The Israeli war has pushed 85% of Gaza’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of most food, clean water and medicine, while 60%of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

The death toll from Israeli attack on Nuseirat refugee camp rises to 27. Another Israeli attack on an aid distribution team in Gaza City killed at least 23.

The death toll in Israel from Hamas’s October 7 attack stands at 1,139 with dozens taken captive.