Fact Check: UN Did NOT Halve Its Estimate Of Women And Children Killed In Gaza

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: UN Did NOT Halve Its Estimate Of Women And Children Killed In Gaza Apples≠Oranges

Did the United Nations revise the Gaza death toll in early May 2024, resulting in almost 50 percent fewer women and children reported as killed than previously estimated? No, that's not true: While the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs regularly updates its figures of reported casualties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the numbers being compared in this case are not in the same category. The larger figure is a record of all reported Palestinian fatalities, while the smaller number is a subset of the bigger one, only counting fully identified deaths according to figures from the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health, as reported by the Government Media Office.

The claim appeared in an article (archived here) published by Fox News on May 13, 2024, titled "UN revises Gaza death toll, almost 50% less women and children killed than previously reported." The story began:

In a dramatic shift, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has revised its data pertaining to the number of Palestinian casualties in the seven-month-old Gaza war, reducing almost by half the number of women and children it previously said were killed in the hostilities between Israel and the Iranian-backed terror group Hamas.

This is what the post looked like on the Fox News website at the time of writing:


(Source: Fox News website screenshot taken on Mon May 13 18:41:29 2024 UTC)

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Despite what the Fox News article said, there was no "dramatic shift" in data reporting deaths in the conflict that began after a Hamas terror attack on October 7, 2023, that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel. This is a classic example of trying to compare apples and oranges.

U.N. statistics do show an increase of 109 cumulative Palestinian deaths between the two reports, one from May 6, 2024, and the other from two days later on May 8, 2024. Both are shown side by side below:


(Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs website screenshots taken on Mon May 13 2024 UTC)

In a May 13, 2024, email to Lead Stories, Eri Kaneko, spokesperson for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), explained the difference between the two U.N. charts. She said (emphasis is ours):

The overall number of fatalities tallied by the Ministry of Health in Gaza remains [essentially] unchanged ...

However, the Ministry has updated the breakdown of fatalities for whom full details have been documented. The Ministry of Health recently published that breakdown for 24,686 out of the 34,622 fatalities recorded in Gaza as of April 30th.

According to the Ministry, the fatalities for whom full details have been documented include 7,797 children, 4,959 women, 1,924 elderly, and 10,006 men. The Ministry of Health notes that the documentation process of casualties' full identification details is ongoing.

Those numbers compare to the deaths of more than 14,500 Palestinian children and more than 9,500 Palestinian women in the earlier report, which account for all reported fatalities, not just the ones with "full details."

Ultimately, the reported death tolls in those two groups didn't suddenly drop. This is an acknowledgment that there are more than 11,000 women and children whose deaths have been reported to OCHA but for whom information is incomplete.

The United Nations said it recognizes that it may not be getting fully accurate information from the Gaza Ministry of Health. Kaneko added:

United Nations teams in Gaza are unable to independently verify these figures, given the prevailing situation on the ground and the sheer number of fatalities. For this reason, all figures used by the UN clearly cite the Ministry of Health in Gaza as the source.

The UN will verify these figures to the extent possible when conditions permit.

Fox News

In a May 14, 2024, email to Lead Stories, a Fox News spokesperson provided this response to questions about the accuracy of its story. They said:

FOX News Digital stands by its reporting.

Read more

Additional Lead Stories fact checks mentioning the 2023 Hamas-Israel conflict can be found here.


  • 2024-05-15T15:38:33Z 2024-05-15T15:38:33Z
    Adds response from Fox News.

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  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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