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Gaza: Mapping The Hunger Crisis Amidst Israeli Attacks

A report supported by the United Nations has noted increasing starvation in Gaza as aid remains inaccessible. 

Severe starvation and mounting famine threats have stemmed from weeks of food restrictions in the besieged enclave of Gaza.                     

Since the beginning of October, Israeli attacks have devastated roads used to deliver humanitarian relief, in addition to destroying the local bakeries and food stores. Israel's complete blockade of the enclave has also prevented fuel, food, and water from already coming into the strip.

How severe is the hunger crisis in Gaza, and how has the food supply changed since the conflict? This article discusses the mounting hunger crisis in Gaza as the conflict persists. 

An Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment released on Monday states that over 90% of Gaza's 2.3 million residents suffer from high levels of acute food insecurity.                                                                                                 

In addition, a report released on Thursday by the IPC that assesses hunger risks noted that 2.08 million people in Gaza are experiencing "acute food insecurity," which comes under the organisation's phase three risk category or above.                                                                   

There are five stages of acute food insecurity according to the IPC, ranging from none (phase 1) to famine or an emergency (phase 5). Phases five and three are regarded as emergency and crisis situations. "Chronic" food insecurity results from inadequate resources for living, while "acute" food insecurity is a short-term problem that usually arises from unusual or man-made shocks.                                                 

The UN-backed assessment projects that the whole population of Gaza will be categorised into phase three or higher between December and February. Gaza faces the possibility of famine by the beginning of February if the ongoing conflicts and inadequate assistance persist.

A famine is defined by the IPC as a situation in which at least 20% of the population in a given area is experiencing phase five acute food insecurity. Families in Gaza have had to deal with food that is getting less nutritious and less in portions, as well as the inability to prepare meals because of fuel shortages.

[Fatima Shbair/AP Photo]

Going a day with no food has become the norm. The World Food Programme (WFP) revealed at the beginning of December that 90% of the enclave's population skips meals for extended periods.   

Pregnant women and other nutritionally vulnerable groups are especially at risk, and toddlers who depend on milk and baby formula have been chronically short of both.             

Finding alternatives to cooking gas is necessary even for meal preparation, and according to the WFP, at least 13 per cent of displaced individuals have been compelled to burn solid trash in addition to utilising cardboard or firewood.                                                                             

Additionally, after a short truce ended in early December, hunger has increased dramatically. The World Food Programme discovered that within 12 days of its end, a minimum of 50% of internally displaced individuals polled were aware of someone who had turned to eating raw meat.                                                                       

There is also a lack of access to water, with each person having fewer than two litres (0.5 gallons) per day, substantially lower than the fifteen litres required to survive, according to the WFP.                                                                   

Compared to at least 10,000 trucks before the war, the quantity of food-carrying trucks that entered Gaza in a given month has decreased by more than half since October 7. Just 1,249 trucks delivering food assistance made it to Gaza during the two months of fighting, according to a December 6 WFP report.                                 

Only 10% of the food required for Gaza's total population was brought in during the first 70 days of the conflict, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.                                                                       

The World Food Programme (WFP) has suggested that at least 100 trucks carrying only food and water should enter Gaza each day; however, since the war, most days have seen fewer trucks enter the area overall. The organisation also pointed out that this increase cannot be supported by the damaged roads close to Rafah at the Egyptian border, from where most aid is now distributed.

[Fatima Shbair/AP]

Approximately 200 trucks a day entered Gaza during the busiest period of assistance delivery between November 24 and December 1, however, the World Food Programme was only able to provide in-kind and cash-based food assistance to about 10% of the population.           

It has been difficult to get a sufficient proportion of food assistance, even when it has been supplied. People living close to Rafah's food distribution centres frequently had to wait in queue for ten hours and occasionally still returned home empty-handed, according to a report released on December 14 by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Al Mezan, a human rights organisation with headquarters in Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp.                                                                               

However, the population of Gaza still mostly depends on food aid from humanitarian organisations, local marketplaces, and support from friends and family. The WFP reports that as shortages in all of these areas worsen, family support is eroding as well.

Competition for food is predicted to grow as more people in Gaza are forced into shelters in the southern governorates, which are likewise under heavy bombardment, according to the IPC. 

Getting food and relief has become increasingly challenging due to fighting throughout the Gaza Strip, particularly in the northern governorates.                                                                             

Israeli shelling has also caused direct damage to nearby farms, wheat mills, bakeries, and warehouses. According to a UN assessment on November 8, all of the bakeries in northern Gaza stopped a month after hostilities started because there wasn't enough fuel or wheat available.

For Palestinians trying to leave their houses in search of food, the movement was limited due to the risk of being struck by Israeli strikes.               

As hostilities continue, a large population of civilians face a hunger crisis that is only worsening because of the looming threats of famine that demands urgent intervention. 

Edited by: Victoria Muzio

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