No, the U.N. did not cut estimates of women and child deaths in Gaza by almost half

By: Naledi Mashishi
May 16 2024

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No, the U.N. did not cut estimates of women and child deaths in Gaza by almost half

A misleading post claimed the U.N. has revised the number of women and children killed in Gaza. (Instagram/Screenshot/Modified by Logically Facts)


The Verdict Misleading

The number of women and child deaths in Gaza has remained the same, but the methodology used to report them has changed.

Claim ID 09a911e8


An Instagram post incorrectly claims that the U.N. has revised its official figures on the number of fatalities of women and children in Gaza, cutting the estimates by almost half, and claiming this exposes misinformation on the part of the U.N.

"🚨BREAKING 🚨 UN's OCHA revise Gaza's reported fatalities of women and children from over 24,000 (70%) to 12,756 (36%), exposing significant misinformation in the war," claims the caption of the post, published on May 13, 2024.  

The post includes a graphic showing two charts with figures of deaths in Gaza. The chart on the left, dated May 6, reported 34,735 fatalities including over 9,500 women and 14,500 children. When combined, this indicates that women and children accounted for 24,000 deaths in total, or 69 percent of fatalities. The chart on the right, dated May 8, reported 34,844 fatalities. It states that 4,959 of the identified fatalities were women, while 7,797 were children. This accounts for 12,756 deaths in total, or 36.6 percent of fatalities.

The claim has been repeated by other news outlets which have used it to call into question the accuracy of statistics provided by the Gaza Ministry of Health. The graphs used are genuine graphs from the U.N. showing the number of deaths recorded in Gaza since October 7, 2023.

However, the claim ignores the line above the May 8 figures which reads, "24,686 identified as of 30 April." The U.N. has confirmed that the figures themselves have not changed; rather, the methodology for counting the death toll has shifted. The official data now differentiates between those who have been identified and those who have not.

In fact

On May 13, 2024, the deputy spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general Farhan Haq, explained this change in data reporting during a press briefing. He explained that the death toll itself remains unchanged.

"What's changed is the Ministry of Health in Gaza has updated the breakdown of fatalities for whom full details have been documented," he said

The 24,686 people mentioned in the most recent U.N. statistics are the number of people for whom the Ministry of Health has been able to obtain full identifying details. Out of the 24,000 women and children who have reportedly been killed during the conflict, 12,756 of them have been fully identified as of April 30. 

"The Ministry of Health says that the documentation process of fully identifying details of the casualties is ongoing," Haq continued. "Meanwhile, as you can see, if you do the math, there's about another 10,000-plus bodies who still have to be fully identified. And so, then the details of those — which of those are children, which of those are women — that will be re-established once the full identification process is complete."

Haq added that the U.N. uses death figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health as these have been found to be generally accurate. This assessment was corroborated by a study published in the Lancet in December 2023, which found no evidence of inflated mortality reporting from the Gaza Ministry of Health.

"Mortality reporting is difficult to conduct in ongoing conflicts. Initial news reports might be imprecise, and subsequent verified reports might undercount deaths that are not recorded by hospitals or morgues, such as persons buried under rubble," the researchers conclude. "However, difficulties obtaining accurate mortality figures should not be interpreted as intentionally misreported data."

The verdict 

Claims that the U.N. has almost halved its reported figures for women and children killed in Gaza have been posted on social media and reported by media outlets. However, a deeper look into the figures reveals that the numbers themselves have not changed. Rather, the Gaza Ministry of Health released updated figures showing how many bodies have been fully identified. We have therefore rated this claim as misleading. 

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