Large areas of Gaza already likely experiencing famine, says U.N. food agency

Displaced Palestinian children in a camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip break their Ramadan-daylight-hours fast with dinner inside makeshift tents on March 11. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
1 of 5 | Displaced Palestinian children in a camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip break their Ramadan-daylight-hours fast with dinner inside makeshift tents on March 11. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

March 18 (UPI) -- Northern Gaza may be experiencing famine already, with the latest data showing two key thresholds -- household acute food insecurity and acute malnutrition -- "far exceeded" and "highly likely to have been exceeded," the United Nations' food security agency said Monday.

With the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification scale showing between 677,000 and 1.1 million people, half the population, experiencing catastrophic food insecurity, the situation risked engulfing the entire besieged enclave, pitching 2.2 million Palestinians into the worst food crisis in the world, the IPC said in a special brief.


"The IPC acute food insecurity analysis conducted in December 2023 warned of a risk that famine may occur by the end of May 2024 if an immediate cessation of hostilities and sustained access for the provision of essential supplies and services to the population did not take place," the report said.


"Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met and the latest evidence confirms that famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024."

Calling for urgent action, IPC warned the projected number of people experiencing catastrophic or emergency food insecurity would rise to almost 2 million over the next four months, leaving only a little more than 200,000 people in the less serious phase 3 "food crisis" category; and no one in the "food stressed" or "food secure" categories.

The IPC said the main drivers are the war involving the ongoing "besiegement of the entire population and widespread, intense and sustained ground and air operations and clashes" and the resulting restricted humanitarian access.

With more than 100,000 killed or injured, 1.9 million displaced, more than half of the buildings damaged or destroyed and "devastated assets and infrastructure indispensable to survival, including across the food, health and water systems," North Gaza and the Gaza Governorates are classified as being in a state of famine with 70% of people in catastrophic food insecurity.

The southern governorates of Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah, are classified in IPC Phase 4 "Food Emergency," but they are also at risk of famine through July should the worst-case scenario materialize.


The IPC warning came a day after Oxfam criticized the international community for depending on inefficient sea routes and air drops rather than challenging Israel's systematic undermining of unrestricted access for relief efforts.

Oxfam said Israeli authorities had inexplicably repeatedly refused entry for a warehouse full of international aid, including oxygen, incubators and Oxfam water and sanitation gear stockpiled 25 miles away in Al Arish on the Egyptian side of the border.

It said the equipment, provided by many humanitarian organizations around the world, had been rejected over weeks and months due to "an unpredictable and chaotic regime of approval, scanning and inspection, ultimately controlled by Israeli authorities."

Oxfam said it was just one example of an overall humanitarian response that Israel had rendered so "dangerous and dysfunctional" as to make it impossible for aid agencies to deliver at the necessary speed and scale to save lives.

"Israeli authorities are not only failing to facilitate the international aid effort but are actively hindering it. We believe that Israel is failing to take all measures within its power to prevent genocide," said Oxfam Middle East and North Africa Director Sally Abi Khalil.

Oxfam said the Israeli government is responsible for the failed international response to the crisis, is in breach of international law by not fulfilling its duty to the people of Gaza as an occupying power and is ignoring the International Court of Justice's ruling that it must increase the flow of humanitarian aid due to the risk of genocide.


On Friday, the Israeli military denied responsibility for an attack on a Gaza aid delivery that killed 20 and injured 155 the previous day, the second such incident involving the distribution of aid in two weeks.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry accused Israeli forces of deliberately shelling dozens of Palestinians waiting for the aid at the Kuwaiti roundabout, which had been designated for delivery of U.N. aid with Israeli approval.

Israel Defense Forces said an initial investigation found that its forces "did not open fire at the aid convoy" and that a review of its operational systems and ground forces found that "no tank fire, airstrike or gunfire was carried out toward the Gazan civilians in or at the aid convoy."

On Feb. 29, more than 100 people were killed and 760 were injured while waiting for aid near the Al-Nabulsi roundabout in northern Gaza, prompting the United Nations and France, Germany and Italy to call for an investigation.

Hamas alleged the victims were fired on by Israeli troops, while IDF said they were trampled or run over as the crowd rushed the aid trucks.

Aid ship arrives off coast of Gaza Strip

Palestinian men watch as The Open Arms maritime vessel carrying humanitarian aid approaches the coast of Gaza City on March 15, 2024. Photo by Ahmed Abd/UPI | License Photo

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