The 10-Year-Old Boy Who Has Become the Face of Starvation in Gaza

The 10-Year-Old Boy Who Has Become the Face of Starvation in Gaza

That dovetailed with an account given by an aid group, ActionAid, which said that a doctor at Al-Awda maternity hospital in northern Gaza had told the group that malnourished mothers were giving birth to stillborn children.

Yazan’s parents had struggled for months to care for their son, whose condition, experts say, would have meant he had trouble swallowing and needed a soft, high-nutrition diet. After the Israeli bombardment on Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led assault on Israel, his parents fled their home, taking Yazan and their three other sons to somewhere they hoped would be safer.

Then they fled again, and again, and again, his father said, searching for somewhere better for Yazan, whose condition meant that he could not tolerate the chaotic, unsanitary shelters. Every move was complicated by the fact that Yazan could not walk.

His parents could do little but watch as his health steadily deteriorated.

“Day after day, I saw my son getting weaker,” said his father, Shareef Kafarneh, a 31-year-old taxi driver from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Eventually, they ended up in Al-Awda, in the southern city of Rafah, where Yazan died on Monday morning. He had suffered from both malnutrition and a respiratory infection, according to Dr. Jabr al-Shaer, a pediatrician who treated him. Dr. al-Shaer blamed the lack of food for weakening Yazan’s already frail immune system.

Obtaining enough to eat had already been a struggle for many in the blockaded Gaza Strip before the war. An estimated 1.2 million Gazans had required food assistance, according to the United Nations, and around 0.8 percent of children under the age of 5 in Gaza had been acutely malnourished, the World Health Organization said.

Five months into the war, that appears to have spiked: About 15 percent of Gazan children under the age of 2 in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished, as well as roughly 5 percent in the south, the World Health Organization said in February. With half of all Gazan infants fed by formula, Dr. Stobaugh said, the lack of clean water in Gaza to make the formula is compounding the crisis.

Adele Khodr, the Middle East director at UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, said this week, “These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable.”

The situation has left parents frantic.

Ali Qannan, 34, does not know what is wrong with his 13-month-old son, Ahmed, who is being treated at the European Hospital in southern Gaza. Neither, he said, do the doctors at the five hospitals he has taken Ahmed to since the baby developed a swollen belly, diarrhea and vomiting a month after the war began. Ahmed has gotten ever worse, with trouble breathing and worrisome blood tests, but, given the war, the doctors say they cannot run the proper diagnostic tests, Mr. Qannan said.

Every pediatrician has had a different suggestion for what to feed Ahmed, Mr. Qannan said — boiled potatoes, bread, special fortified formula used for treating severely malnourished children — but each was either impossible to find or seemed not to help. Mr. Qannan says he is sure that malnutrition has something to do with Ahmed’s problems.

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