Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.
File photo Displaced Palestinian children gather to receive food at a government school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 19, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas.(AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2024
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Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.
  • One in three children in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished or suffering from wasting

Nearly 166 million people worldwide are estimated to need urgent action against hunger, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a global partnership which measures food insecurity.
That includes nearly everyone in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military launched an offensive in October following an attack on Israel by Hamas militants. More than one million of Gaza’s inhabitants face the most extreme form of malnutrition – classified by the IPC as ‘Catastrophe or Famine.’
Seven-month-old Majd Salem is one of them.
Born on Nov. 1, three weeks after Israel launched the offensive, the child was being treated for a chest infection in the neonatal ICU at Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza on May 9. The nurse caring for him said he was suffering from severe malnutrition.
Majd was born at a healthy weight of 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds), said his mother, Nisreen Al-Khateeb.
By May, when he was six months old, his weight had barely changed to 3.8 kg, she said – around 3 kg less than would be expected for a baby his age.
Majd, whose eyes keenly followed visiting reporters in the ward, had to be given antibiotics for the infection and fortified milk to boost his weight, his mother said. Reuters was unable to trace them after May 21, when the hospital was evacuated following an Israeli raid.
One in three children in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished or suffering from wasting, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, citing data from its partners on the ground. Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run government media office, said their records showed 33 people had died of malnutrition in Gaza including 29 children, but added that the number could be higher.
COGAT, an Israeli defense ministry agency tasked with coordinating aid deliveries into Palestinian territories, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Israel’s foreign ministry in late May issued a detailed statement questioning the IPC’s methods of analysis, which it said omitted measures Israel had taken to improve access to food in Gaza. The IPC declined to comment.
The plight of Gaza’s children is part of a bigger trend. Globally last year more than 36 million children under 5 were acutely malnourished, nearly 10 million of them severely, according to the Global Report on Food Crises, a collaborative analysis of food insecurity by 16 international organizations.
The food shortage in Gaza, while particularly widespread, comes amid a broader spike in extreme hunger as conflicts around the world intensify.
Two other countries – South Sudan and Mali – each have thousands of people living in zones listed on the IPC website as facing famine. Another 35 – including Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have many people in the IPC’s next-most acute category of food deprivation.
The IPC, a grouping of United Nations agencies, national governments and non-governmental organizations, is expected to update its assessment of the picture in war-torn Sudan in coming weeks. A preliminary projection reported by Reuters earlier this month said as many as 756,000 people in Sudan could face catastrophic food shortages by September.
Gaza’s hunger crisis is also a product of war. The Israeli military invaded the Strip in response to the Oct. 7 cross-border assault by Hamas on Israel. More than 37,000 Palestinians and nearly 1,500 Israelis have been killed since then, Gazan and Israeli tallies show.
The Israeli assault has destroyed swathes of Gazan farmland. In the early days of the war, Israel imposed a total blockade on Gaza. It later allowed some humanitarian supplies to enter but is still facing international calls to let in more.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, in seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, last month accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, among other alleged crimes. Netanyahu, calling that move “a moral outrage of historic proportions,” said Israel is fighting in full compliance with international law and taking unprecedented measures to ensure aid reaches those in need.
Israel has accused Hamas of stealing aid, which Hamas strongly denies. Israel has also said any distribution problems within Gaza are the fault of the international agencies.
Even when children survive, nutrition experts say food deprivation in the early years can do lasting damage.
A child’s brain develops at its fastest rate in the first two years of life. So even if they don’t starve to death or die from illness due to their weakened immune system, children may face delays in growth and development, said Aashima Garg, adviser on nutrition at UNICEF for the Middle East and North Africa.
“While they may be alive, they may not thrive that well in childhood and beyond,” she said.
Three families in Gaza told Reuters about their day-to-day diets, and four global health experts explained how such deprivation affects the growing body. Damage done in weeks manifests over years, they said.
“It can have a long-term impact on their immune system, their ability to absorb good nutrition, and on their cognitive and physical development,” said Hannah Stephenson, global head of nutrition and health at Save The Children, a non-profit.
FIRST DAYS
Gaza has the most households globally in the most extreme stage of food poverty, according to the IPC, which classifies levels of hunger in five categories, the worst of which is famine.
Households in North Gaza, where Majd lives, are already suffering a full-blown famine, Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, said on May 5.
It can take months for the international measurement system to declare a famine. But the first damage to a child’s body is counted in days.
Nine out of 10 children aged 6 months to 2 years in Gaza live in severe child food poverty, a UNICEF survey in late May found. This means they are eating from two or fewer food groups a day, which UNICEF’s Garg said means grains or some form of milk.
This has been the case since December 2023, with only a slight improvement in April 2024, she said. As many as 85 percent of children of all ages did not eat for a whole day at least once in the three days before the survey was conducted.
The main cause of acute malnutrition in North Gaza is a lack of diversity in the diets of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to a report in February 2024 from the Global Nutrition Cluster, a group of humanitarian agencies led by UNICEF.
This deficient intake, both prior to and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, harms both mothers and infants.
Abed Abu Mustafa, 49, a father of six, was still living in Gaza City in early April. He said people there already had eaten “almost every green plant we could find” and he hadn’t had meat or chicken for at least five months.
In Rafah in the south, Mariam, 33, a mother of five, has been living in a school along with two dozen of her relatives. She described a typical meal for her family before the conflict and what they are currently eating, shown below.
Before the war, Majd’s mother said an average family meal consisted of rice with chicken or meat, along with vegetables such as okra, cauliflower or peas. During the war, flour scarcity forced the family to make bread from animal feed. Recently, bread and canned goods like tuna and beans started to reappear, but these are not widely available.
Unable to find food to feed herself and forced to flee Israeli bombardment early in the war, Khateeb said she had found great difficulty in breastfeeding Majd.
She said she could find neither good quality baby formula nor clean water to mix it, so she fed him various types of powdered feed mixed with rainwater or brackish water from Gaza’s polluted wells, causing diarrhea.
“There is no chance to get proper food to have breastmilk, there is no meat, no proteins, no calcium, none of the elements that produce good milk for the child,” she said.
Garg, the UNICEF adviser, said the nutrition of breastfeeding mothers in Gaza was severely compromised, and with it their ability to produce milk.
“They are not eating fruits and vegetables. They are not eating meat. They are not having much milk,” she said. This lack of nutrients translates into poor quality breast milk. Diluted formula is not safe and risks diarrhea, which itself can be deadly.
Moderately malnourished mothers can still breastfeed, with their bodies effectively sacrificing their own nutritional needs to save the child. But severely malnourished women struggle.
Ahmed Al-Kahlout, the nurse who heads the unit, said Majd’s infection was due to malnutrition.
“There is no immunity, so any disease that the child catches in the shelters … afflicts the child with these severe lung infections,” he said.
Susceptibility to infections typically increases after two weeks with insufficient food.
The body’s consumption of its fat reserves eats away muscle tissue, which is why aid workers in the field use basic tape measures to assess the gravity of children’s conditions.
The tapes measuring Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) have been used for decades. If the upper arm’s circumference is 11.5 cm (4 1/2 inches) or smaller for a child between 6 months and 5 years old, the child is assessed as having severe acute malnutrition, according to standards drawn up by the United Nations.
MUAC screening data across Gaza since mid-January found more than 7,000 children aged 6 months to about 5 years were already acutely malnourished as of May 26, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said.
This is how that looks.
Gaza has the most people at risk of starvation, but according to the IPC classifications, many millions are one step behind the enclave in food poverty.
The IPC categorizes the severity and scale of food insecurity and malnutrition. Readings of 3, 4 or 5 on the five-category scale require urgent action.
Households in Phase 3 are in “Crisis,” the IPC says. They have high or more than usual acute malnutrition, or can meet their minimum food needs but only by selling assets or through crisis measures.
Phase 4 is an “Emergency.” Households have either “very high” acute malnutrition and death rates or are only able to make up for the lack of food by taking emergency measures and selling assets.
Phase 5 is “Catastrophe” or “Famine.” Households have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs and starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. An entire area is only classified as in Famine if high food insecurity comes with certain levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.
For the IPC, areas in Famine meet at least two of the following three criteria: * the area has at least 20 percent of households facing an extreme lack of food, * About one in three children there suffer from acute malnutrition, * Two adults or four children out of every 10,000 die each day due to outright starvation, or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease.

The IPC report issued in March projected that the entire population of the Gaza Strip would fall into Phases 3 to 5 between March and July. UN officials told Reuters they expect the next IPC analysis on Gaza to be released on June 25.
South Sudan and Mali are the other two other countries with households projected to fall into the same Phase 5 category as Gaza, based on the IPC’s latest published analyzes.
Overall, the three countries with the largest numbers of people at Phase 3 and above are Nigeria (25 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (23.4 million) and Sudan (17.7 million), according to the IPC website.
The IPC said its latest analysis of Sudan, conducted in December, was too outdated to include in the tables Reuters used for this chart.
As a consequence of severe malnutrition, various complications arise.
This is the impact of starvation after just three weeks. Like many children in Gaza, Majd’s lack of adequate food dates back months.


Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
Updated 10 sec ago
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Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration

Libya, EU seek ‘strategic’ cooperation to end irregular migration
TRIPOLI: Libya held Wednesday a conference on irregular migration that saw the attendance of representatives from 28 European and African countries hoping to establish a “strategic” cooperation to resolve the issue.
“We have a moral responsibility” toward the mainly sub-Saharan migrants “who cross the desert and the sea” hoping to reach Europe, Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah said at the opening of the Trans-Mediterranean Migration Forum.
Libya, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Italy, is a key departure point for migrants, primarily from sub-Saharan African countries, risking perilous Mediterranean Sea journeys to seek better lives in Europe.
But with mounting efforts by the European Union to curb irregular migration, many have found themselves stranded in Libya and other North African countries.
“Libya found itself caught in pressure between (Europe’s) turning back of migrants and (their) desire to migrate,” said Dbeibah.
He called for development projects in departure countries.
“We can only resolve the migration crisis at the root, in the countries of departure,” he said.
Last week, authorities in Libya said that up to four in five foreigners in the North African country are undocumented, and hosting migrants hoping to reach Europe has become “unacceptable.”
“It’s time to resolve this problem,” Interior Minister Imad Trabelsi had said, because “Libya cannot continue to pay its price.”
Libya is still struggling to recover from years of war and chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Smugglers and human traffickers have taken advantage of the climate of instability that has dominated the vast country since.
The country has been criticized over the treatment of migrant and refugees, with accusations from rights groups ranging from extortion to slavery.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at Wednesday’s forum called for an end to “human trafficking... (which) is nowadays one of world’s most powerful criminal networks.”
The far-right minister denounced “criminal organizations” who “decide who has the right or not to live in our countries,” adding that “illegal migration is the enemy of legal migration.”
Italy recorded 30,348 migrant arrivals from North Africa between January 1 and July 16 — a 61-percent decrease in a year — with 17,659 people leaving from Libya and 11,001 from Tunisia, according to official figures.

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
Updated 49 min 33 sec ago
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16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
  • Maritime Security Center in Oman said that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon
  • Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels

AL-MUKALLA: Search operations have escalated for 16 seamen who went missing in the Arabian Sea on Monday when their oil tanker, bound for Yemen, sunk off Oman.

The Maritime Security Center in Oman said on Tuesday that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker that collapsed 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah near the Omani port town of Duqm.

The Indian news agency Asian News International reported that the Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels and coast guards to find the missing sailors. The Indian Navy warship was able to locate the capsized tanker on Tuesday morning.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides ship information, the Prestige Falcon is an oil tanker flying the Comoros flag, and which was going from the UAE to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. In Yemen, the state-run Public Electricity Corporation in Aden said that the capsized ship was carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel owned by a local merchant, contradicting media reports claiming that it controlled the ship’s cargo.

This comes as the Conflict and Environment Observatory, an environmental advocacy charity, stated that images provided by the Sentinel 2 satellite on Tuesday showed a 220 km oil slick beginning 106 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which was believed leaked from the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion that the Houthis attacked.

On Tuesday, the Houthis released footage of an explosive-laden and remotely operated boat colliding with the Chios Lion in the Red Sea, which was traveling 100 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah on Monday, resulting in an explosion and ball of fire. The CEOBS condemned the Houthis for damaging the Red Sea’s ecosystem by assaulting oil vessels. “Attacks have already impacted the Red Sea environment and attacks on oil and bulk chemical carriers pose ongoing risks,” it said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s government said that it had found no evidence of contamination in the Red Sea or along the country’s coast from a fertilizer-laden ship that sank in the Red Sea, repeating appeals for the international community to provide it with technology to neutralize the ship’s danger. The MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and gasoline, sank in the Red Sea earlier this year after being attacked by Houthi missiles.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission responsible for the sinking ship, told Arab News that the Yemeni government teams who visited the ship’s area and combed the Yemeni coasts had not observed any signs of pollution.

He also said that the Yemeni government had requested equipment from some nations, including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to address the MV Rubymar sinking or any similar incident in the future as the Houthis intensify their attacks on ships. “So yet, there is no pollution or slicks surrounding the ship, and it remains bowed up, indicating that water has not infiltrated all of its compartments,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two others, fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and deployed drones and drone boats to attack commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Yemeni militia sees this as an attempt to pressure Israel to end its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 17 July 2024
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Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • CNN has reported US authorities received intelligence weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations calls the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious”

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
  • “The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television
  • Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group

TRIPOLI: Armed groups clashed in a seaside town outside the Libyan capital late Tuesday, killing a woman bystander and sowing panic among beachgoers, emergency services and media reports said.
The fighting erupted in Tajura, a town 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Tripoli which is popular with families seeking escape from the heat of the capital.
“The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television.
Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group.
A myriad of armed groups have vied for control of the North African country ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Although relative calm has returned in the past few years, clashes periodically occur between rival groups, most of which are allied with either the UN-recognized government in Tripoli or the rival administration based in the east.
Clashes broke out in Zawiya, west of the capital, in May and in Tripoli itself in April.
In August last year, 55 people were killed in the fiercest clashes to hit the capital in a year.


Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
Updated 17 July 2024
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Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
  • The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas
  • The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition

BAGHDAD: Two drones were launched against a base in Iraq where forces of the US-led anti-extremist coalition are stationed, security officials said Wednesday.
“An attack using two drones” targeted Ain Assad base in Anbar province on Tuesday evening, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“One drone was shot down outside the base by defense systems, and the second exploded inside the base without causing any injuries or damage,” he added.
The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and Hamas.
Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq have largely halted similar attacks on US-backed troops in recent months, but have continued to threaten action should war break out between their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.
A senior security official in Baghdad confirmed Tuesday’s attack, saying he believed it was meant to “embarrass” the Iraqi government and pressure the ongoing talks on the future of the international coalition in Iraq, with Iran-backed groups demanding a withdrawal.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition.
The coalition was deployed to Iraq at the government’s request in 2014 to help combat Daesh, which had taken over vast swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, has carried out more than 175 rocket and drone strikes against US-led troops in Iraq and Syria.
It says the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, demanding an end to the Israeli offensive.
In April, rocket fire from northern Iraq targeted a base hosting the international coalition in Syria.
In late January, a drone strike blamed on Iraqi armed groups killed three US soldiers in a base across the border in Jordan.
In retaliation, the US launched deadly strikes against pro-Iran factions in Iraq and Syria.
Baghdad has sought to defuse the tensions, engaging in talks with Washington to negotiate a timeline for the coalition’s withdrawal.
The senior security official said that an Iraqi delegation is expected to travel to Washington later this week for the ongoing talks.