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Famine imminent in northern Gaza, says U.N.-backed report

After more than five months of war which have shattered the Palestinian territory, killed thousands and cut off supplies, a U.N.-backed report said on Monday that famine is imminent and likely to occur in the next two months in northern Gaza.

 

Across the whole of the besieged enclave, the number of people at risk of “catastrophic hunger” has risen to 1.1 million, about half the population, the report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said.

The assessment by the U.N.-backed initiative – a scale used by U.N. agencies, regional bodies and aid groups that sets the global standard on measuring food crises – comes amid global pressure on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into the enclave of 2.3 million people.

“Famine is now projected and imminent in the North Gaza and Gaza Governorates and is expected to become manifest during the projection period from mid-March 2024 to May 2024,” it said.

The EU accused Israel on Monday of provoking famine and using starvation as a weapon of war – claims that Israel rejects, saying it does not target civilians and is only interested in eliminating the militant Islamist movement Hamas.

The IPC uses a complex set of technical criteria. Its most extreme warning is Phase 5, which has two levels, catastrophe and famine.

Famine is assessed as at least 20% of the population suffering extreme food shortages, with one in three children acutely malnourished and two people out of every 10,000 dying daily from starvation or from malnutrition and disease.

Monday’s IPC report said that in northern Gaza the threshold for acute food insecurity had been far exceeded and the threshold for acute malnutrition had likely also been surpassed.

“The upward trend in non-trauma mortality is also expected to accelerate, resulting in all famine thresholds likely to be passed imminently,” it said.

The study also said the number of people deemed at risk of catastrophic hunger across Gaza was nearly double the figure reported in December, when the last report was issued and there was already record hunger.

“From mid-March to mid-July, in the most likely scenario and under the assumption of an escalation of the conflict including a ground offensive in Rafah (city), half of the population of the Gaza Strip (1.11 million people) is expected to face catastrophic conditions,” the IPC said.

Because of a lack of aid, almost all households were skipping meals every day and adults were reducing their meals so children could eat, the report said.

In northern Gaza, in nearly two thirds of households people went entire days and nights without eating at least 10 times in the last 30 days, it added. In southern areas, that applied to one third of the households.

Israel has said it has a plan to assault Rafah, the southern Gaza city bordering Egypt, to root out Hamas fighters, but it is also involved in mediation talks about a possible truce.

The IPC analysis said famine could still be avoided if Israel and Hamas stop fighting and aid organisations gain increased access.

“But in order to do that, we must act and we must act now,” chief economist of the World Food Programme, Arif Husain, told Reuters following the release of the IPC report.

“We need full access, we need large quantities of food, and we need the ability to reach people where they are and provide them with this food as soon as possible. If we can do this, our hope is we can still avert a full-fledged famine. But the window is shutting, and it is shutting very, very fast.”

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