April 14, 2024

Malnutrition Hounds Children in Gaza:

SAMS Calls for Unfettered Humanitarian Access

Dr. Samer Attar, a longstanding SAMS volunteer from Chicago who just completed his third medical mission in Gaza, said malnutrition was a growing crisis there.  “Every day we saw death from malnutrition, dehydration, and traumatic blast injuries,” he said of northern Gaza where he was one of four international doctors placed by the World Health Organization (WHO) over the last two weeks.

Malnutrition is silently but relentlessly claiming the lives of innocent children in Gaza, especially in the north. Recent data from the WHO paints a harrowing picture. Since October, 27 children have succumbed to malnutrition. In northern Gaza, up to 16 percent of children are suffering from acute malnutrition with about 3 percent suffering from severe acute malnutrition. 

Dr. Attar said hunger “surrounded” them while in northern Gaza and that there was an “apocalyptic” landscape of rubble. He described caring for a 22-year-old woman in the ER brought in by her father.  The father barely had food or water for seven days, and on the eighth day, his nephew went looking for food and was killed in an explosion.  “On day 11, she became unresponsive, and dad brought her to the hospital,” Dr. Attar said. “Her eye sockets were sucked in, and her cheek bones revealed the outlines of her skull.  All we could do was watch her die as she gasped for breath.”

To partially alleviate the crisis, SAMS just finished a food distribution program with its partner the United Palestinian Appeal for 1,400 families. Due to the huge demand, SAMS extended the program to serve an additional 5,000 individuals with a cooked meal.  Yet this is not nearly enough to stem the suffering of children spiraling deeper into malnutrition. SAMS calls on stakeholders to allow the unfettered flow of humanitarian goods, including emergency items to immediately address the severely malnourished.

Over 13 years of war in Syria, SAMS witnessed similar heartbreaking stories of malnutrition. It is imperative that stakeholders recognize and adhere to international humanitarian law regarding the responsibility of parties in conflict to ensure adequate supplies of food and water as well as access for humanitarian relief.

SAMS is a nonprofit, non-political organization that works on the front lines of crisis relief, providing medical and humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in Syria, its neighboring countries, and beyond.  Last year, SAMS provided lifesaving medical services to 3.6 million people. 

For more information about SAMS, go to www.sams-usa.net. To speak with Dr. Samer Attar or to SAMS’ President, contact David Lillie at dlillie@sams-usa.net.