A recent report published in the Lancet medical journal showed that “the trend for stunting among Palestinian children is increasing, and that there is a concern about the long-term effects.” The report shows that there are pockets in northern Gaza where the level of stunted growth among children reaches thirty percent. Stunting, which is caused by chronic malnutrition and affecting cognitive development and physical health, poses a serious threat to normal childhood development and may cause severe health problems for children in the future. The report’s conclusions that the main reasons for the ailing Palestinian health system are the occupation, the recent conflict in Gaza, and inter-Palestinian fighting stress the need for an honest assessment of the health situation within the context of broader Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Thus, the Israeli government’s dismissal of the report as “propaganda in the guise of a medical report” is disheartening. Measuring stunted growth among children represents objective health data collection. Regardless of partisan persuasions, the percentage of Palestinian children who now suffer from stunted growth remains ten percent. Dismissing the report as one-sided does not change the medical facts on the ground, which clearly indicate that the Palestinian population in Gaza is facing a dangerous and worsening health situation, one that certainly has implications on any future prospects for peace.