About 10 percent of Palestinian children suffer permanent effects from malnutrition, according to a survey published Wednesday, a result of widespread poverty in the West Bank and Gaza.
The root cause is poverty, according to Khaled Abu Khaled, who directed the study for the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. He said the numbers are up slightly over the past two years.
"One obvious effect of malnutrition is stunted growth among children, which has increased about three percent in the last two years," he said.
"This is a chronic chronic. Even with interventions, the rates don't go down fast," he said.
Other surveys have shown that about half of the Palestinians are living in poverty.
Six years of violence between Palestinians and Israelis have crippled economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza. A year of international aid sanctions following an election victory by the Islamic Hamas and its takeover of the Palestinian government has intensified the hardships.
The findings were based on a survey conducted in November and December covering 13,238 residents of the West Bank and Gaza, according to a statement. It found that 13.2 percent of the children of Gaza suffer stunted growth, compared to 7.9 percent in the West Bank.
While incidents of stunted growth were up slightly, Abu Khaled noted a decrease in cases of extremely low body weight - another common symptom of acute malnutrition. He said the children of northern Gaza were most likely to suffer stunted growth as well as low birth weight.
The survey showed that 17 percent of the Palestinian population is made up of children under the age of five, and 46 percent are under 15.