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WHO reports sharp rise in newborn deaths in Gaza

A mother cries for her baby in front of an incubator, with the baby's body inside, at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia, Gaza, February 29, 2024.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says newborn mortality is rising sharply in the Gaza Strip as Israel has destroyed the besieged Palestinian territory's healthcare system.

"From different doctors, particularly in the maternity hospitals, they're reporting that they're seeing a big rise in children born with low birth weight, and just not surviving the neonatal period because they're born too small," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said on Tuesday.

Harris said at Kamal Adwan, the only pediatric hospital in northern Gaza, "at least 15 malnourished children are coming in per day, and the needs are just getting ever more severe."

She cited a stabilization center set up last week, saying the inpatients were typically children with medical illnesses as well as malnutrition.

"If you have got an underlying condition, malnutrition will kill you much more quickly, so they become the most urgent patients."

The WHO is unable to establish precise statistics on child mortality because of the devastation in the Palestinian territory. Harris says many people do not even get to hospital.

Doctors in Gaza say a growing number of women have suffered pregnancy losses or complications. They are reporting an increase in adverse pregnancy outcomes, with staff at a Rafah hospital saying they no longer see "normal-sized babies."

Palestinian health authorities say at least 27 people, including children, have died from severe malnutrition.

Israel faces growing pressure from the international community to expedite the delivery of aid into Gaza.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Save the Children charity organization warned that malnourished children in Gaza were not getting the food and medical care they need to survive with food being blocked at every turn and the health system obliterated.

On Monday, the Israeli military pulled out of Gaza City's al-Shifa Hospital after a two-week military operation that left much of the complex in ruins and bodies scattered on the dusty grounds. The hospital was the biggest in the Palestinian territory.

Only three maternity hospitals remain in the Gaza Strip, and they are overwhelmed with patients.

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