RAFAH, Gaza Strip (NEWSnet/AP) — A study led by the U.N. children's agency found that one in six children are acutely malnourished in the isolated and largely devastated area of north Gaza.

This report comes as Israel ordered new evacuations from parts of Gaza City on Tuesday.

Israel also has vowed to expand the offensive to the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of the territory's population of 2.3 million has sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. Many have crowded into sprawling tent camps and overflowing U.N.-run shelters near the Egyptian border.

Israel's air and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack, has killed over 29,000 Palestinians and displaced more than 80% of the population.

The report by the Global Nutrition Cluster, an aid partnership led by UNICEF, says more than 90% of children under 5 in Gaza eat two or fewer food groups a day, known as severe food poverty. A similar percentage are affected by infectious diseases, with 70% experiencing diarrhea in the last two weeks.

More than 80% of homes lack clean and safe water, with the average household having one liter (one quart) per person per day, according to the report released Monday.

In Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where most humanitarian aid enters, the acute malnutrition rate is 5%, compared to 15% in northern Gaza, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and largely cut off from aid for months. Before the war the rate across Gaza was less than 1%, the report said.

“The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths, which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza,” UNICEF official Ted Chaiban said in a statement.

A U.N. report in December found that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million Palestinians is in a food crisis, with a quarter of the population facing starvation.

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