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The Tragedy of Gaza’s Children

Summary:
Children and mothers are bearing the brunt of the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which includes widespread malnutrition. Allowing the current situation to slide into a full-fledged catastrophe would be an indefensible dereliction of responsibility by the international community. GAZA CITY – Wrapped in her mother’s arms in a crowded doctor’s surgery, Muna (not her real name) looks at first glance like any baby waiting to be weighed by a nurse. Look more closely, however, and you see why medical staff at the Ard El-Insan pediatric clinic in Gaza are worried. Muna is nine months old, but she weighs under five kilograms – barely the normal weight for a healthy six-week-old baby.

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Children and mothers are bearing the brunt of the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which includes widespread malnutrition. Allowing the current situation to slide into a full-fledged catastrophe would be an indefensible dereliction of responsibility by the international community.

GAZA CITY – Wrapped in her mother’s arms in a crowded doctor’s surgery, Muna (not her real name) looks at first glance like any baby waiting to be weighed by a nurse. Look more closely, however, and you see why medical staff at the Ard El-Insan pediatric clinic in Gaza are worried. Muna is nine months old, but she weighs under five kilograms – barely the normal weight for a healthy six-week-old baby.

“This is heartbreaking, but it’s now normal,” a doctor tells me. “Every day we see over 50 cases of children with malnutrition, and the numbers are rising.”

The increasingly dire situation in Gaza – especially for children – is one of the world’s least reported humanitarian emergencies. The territory is mired in a deepening crisis as a result of three wars since 2007, a decade-long Israeli-led blockade, and a budget crisis fueled by intra-Palestinian hostilities and aid cuts. Two years ago, the United Nations described conditions for the two million people inhabiting the tiny coastal strip as increasingly “unlivable.” And the situation has deteriorated since then.

The territory’s economy is in free fall. It contracted by 8% last year alone – and the decline continues. Half the population – including 400,000 children – is now living below the poverty line. The unemployment rate is among the highest in the world, with two-thirds of young people jobless.

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