"In humanitarian terms it was a percentage that was high enough to trigger some kind of intervention - and that's what the aid agencies were most interested in," said project coordinator Dr Gregg Greenough of Johns Hopkins University in an interview with Aljazeera.net.
Chronic malnutrition undermines the immune system and affects the body's ability to resist and respond to infections and infectious diseases.
It is of particular concern in places where populations are already vulnerable, as those in the Gaza Strip are.
Last month, Greenough
returned to Gaza to conclude a follow-up study, with mixed results.While malnutrition in Gaza had gone down, the daily intake of essential macro and micro nutrients had decreased to alarming levels."This is something unprecedented.We actually see that as they get older [Palestinian] children are taking in less calories per day.It drops off the charts," he
colleagues say the decrease in quality of food intake is directly related to poverty: "Bread is cheap, and tea is cheap," he
says.Malnutrition is not immediately evident in such children, however, because of the body's self-sustaining nature.
Some kitchens contain little more than bread and water
"You can feed yourself filler food, such as bread, and preserve your weight and height," said Greenough
While the study did have some promising results - it found that acute levels of malnutrition had dropped in the Gaza Strip to 13% - Greenough
is not holding his
Food assistance is a temporary measure for relief, he
says, and if taken away, hundreds of vulnerable families will find themselves back in the malnutrition loop.
Children suffer weight loss and a weakened immune system
"My concern is that it's still tenuous, and acute malnutrition could still rise," said Greenough
With unemployment steadily on the rise, and income levels for those who are employed decreasing dramatically, Greenough
has good reason to worry.
says the situation will not improve in the long-term unless the underlying cause is addressed: poverty.
"I've been in some homes and all I've seen is water, parsley, and bread," he