Gaza’s 2.3 million population faces hunger crisis, famine risk: UN report

The entire 2.3 million population of the Gaza Strip is facing crisis levels of hunger and the risk of famine is increasing each day as the Israel-Hamas war grinds on, a UN-backed body said in a report published on Thursday.

That makes the proportion of households in the Palestinian enclave that are in hunger crisis, or suffering from high levels of acute food insecurity, the largest ever recorded globally, the report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated rapidly since Israel began a major military operation on Oct. 7, with heavy air strikes and a ground offensive laying waste to wide areas of the enclave since then, in response to a shock, deadly rampage into Israel by militants of Gaza’s ruling Hamas group.

Trucks bringing aid from Egypt have delivered some food, water and medicine, but the United Nations says the quantity of food is just 10 percent of what is needed for the territory’s inhabitants, most of whom have been displaced.

“There is a risk of famine and it is increasing each day that the current situation of intense hostilities and restricted humanitarian access persists or worsens,” the IPC report said.

Distribution of aid within Gaza has been hampered by military operations, inspections of aid demanded by Israel, communications blackouts and shortages of fuel.

Some desperate Gazans have jumped onto aid trucks to try to grab scarce supplies of food and other goods. There have been reports of residents eating donkey meat and emaciated patients seeking medical help.


“This report sort of confirms our worst fears,” said Arif Husain, chief economist and director of research at the UN World Food Programme, calling the crisis “unprecedented”.

“I’ve been doing this for the last 20 plus years. I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve been to Yemen, to Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, northeast Nigeria. But I’ve never seen something this bad happening this quickly,” he told Reuters in an interview.

The IPC, produced by a partnership including UN agencies and NGOs, sets the global standard for determining the severity of a food crisis using a complex set of technical criteria.

Crisis or Phase 3 levels of hunger mean households are suffering from high rates of acute malnutrition or can only meet minimum needs through crisis-coping strategies or using up essential assets, according to the IPC.

The IPC’s most extreme warning is Phase 5, which has two levels, catastrophe and famine.

At least one in four households – or 577,000 people – in Gaza are already facing catastrophic hunger, suffering from an extreme lack of food, starvation and exhaustion of coping capacities, the IPC found.

That is more than four times as many people as those estimated to be facing catastrophic hunger elsewhere in the world, Husain said.

In Sudan, the IPC estimates that war has driven some 37 percent of the population into Phase 3, or crisis levels of hunger, with 10 percent of the population facing Phase 4 “emergency” levels.

In South Sudan, the IPC found 46 percent of the population faced crisis levels of hunger in recent months, while in Afghanistan the estimate was 29 percent.

Famine has been declared only twice in the past 12 years, in parts of southern Somalia in 2011 and in parts of South Sudan in 2017.

“If the war continues the way it is, if the assistance is not coming in the way it should, we will be looking at a famine in the next six months,” Husain said of the situation in Gaza.

“Whether it happens in two months or whether it happens in three months, it’s anybody’s call.”

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