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Gaza: Halt the war now to save children from dying of imminent famine, UN Committee warns

21 March 2024

GENEVA (21 March 2024) – With children in North Gaza facing imminent famine and others across the Gaza Strip in danger of catastrophic food insecurity, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child today issued the following statement, repeating its call for an immediate ceasefire. 

“Children in Gaza are starving to death. 

They are cut off from food, even crumbs are not easy to find. 

A little girl wept in front of the BBC’s camera, crying, “I miss bread.” 

The occupying power has blocked or severely restricted food and other life-essential supplies and aid. 

To date, there have been 27 reported deaths of children due to malnutrition and dehydration in Gaza, according to the Gazan Health Ministry. 
The true death toll from starvation is likely to be significantly higher, and it is set to rise. Children in Gaza can no longer wait, as each passing minute risks another child dying of hunger as the world looks on. 

One in three children under two years old in the Northern Gaza Strip suffer from acute malnutrition, a sharp increase from 15.6 per cent in January, a nutrition screening conducted by UNICEF and its partners showed. 

Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and is expected to occur anytime between now and May 2024, experts from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projected. 

The IPC also estimated that half of the population of the Gaza Strip, approximately 1.11 million people, will face catastrophic conditions and the most severe level on the IPC’s Acute Food Insecurity Scale in the four months leading up to mid-July if the conflict escalates, including through a ground offensive in Rafah. 

The Committee has repeatedly urged for a ceasefire in Gaza. Since our statement issued in February, the situation has deteriorated significantly. The killing continues unabated, and now, children are dying of preventable starvation. 

Deliberate actions such as blocking and restricting humanitarian aid appear to be calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Palestinian children, and we refer in this regard to the interim ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on 26 January 2024, which found some rights claims by South Africa under the Genocide Convention to be “plausible”. 

We draw attention to the ICJ’s order to Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of article II of the Convention”, including killing members of the group; to “prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide”; and to “enable the provision of… humanitarian assistance”. 

Since the ICJ order on 26 January, and as of 19 March, an average of over 108 Palestinians have been killed and another 178 injured every day in Gaza, and children are amongst them. The looming invasion of Rafah will take the fragile situation to the breaking point, putting the lives of 600,000 children at immediate risk, and will rapidly reach the tipping point of famine. 

While reiterating its calls for the remaining children held hostage to be released immediately, the Committee also calls on all parties, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to protect hundreds of thousands of innocent children’s lives. We call upon States to resume and strengthen funding for UNRWA and urge the opening of multiple land border crossings to allow for massively increased delivery of aid throughout the area, including to northern Gaza, as well as security assurances and unimpeded passage to ensure that the aid reaches all children, in all areas.” 

For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:

Vivian Kwok at [email protected], or 
UN Human Rights Office Media Section at [email protected]


The Committee on the Rights of the Child monitors States parties' adherence to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols on involvement of children in armed conflict, and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The Convention to date has 196 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

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