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Gaza Faces Imminent Famine

The Gaza Strip, already grappling with the devastating Israel military campaign and its humanitarian consequences, now faces an additional and imminent crisis – famine. 

Israel's war on Gaza, which has entered its fifth month, has resulted in a staggering death toll of at least 29,878 Palestinians, with the majority being women and children. The conflict was sparked by an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that claimed the lives of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians.

Escalating Famine Risk Amidst War

This prolonged war has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Gazans, with nearly 1.5 million people now crammed into the far-southern city of Rafah. Those remaining in the north face an increasingly desperate situation, with aid groups – such as the WFP - issuing warnings about the imminent risk of famine

The BBC reveals that children are enduring days without food due to denied permits for aid convoys. Desperation has driven some to grind animal feed into makeshift flour for survival, but even these stocks are rapidly depleting. 

The United Nations has sounded the alarm on the alarming surge in acute malnutrition among young children in the north, surpassing the critical threshold of 15%. Matt Hollingworth, the regional chief of the World Food Programme (WFP), emphasizes the gravity of the situation, stating, "We know there is a very serious risk of famine in Gaza if we don't provide very significant volumes of food assistance on a regular basis." 

The warning is reinforced by Ramesh Rajasingham, director of the coordination division in the UN humanitarian office, who states that at least 576,000 people in Gaza, constituting 25% of the population, are on the brink of famine, relying on insufficient humanitarian food assistance for survival. 

The severity of the crisis is further underscored by Carl Skau, the World Food Program's deputy executive director, who notes that Gaza is witnessing the worst level of child malnutrition globally. Shockingly, one in every six children under the age of 2 is malnourished, painting a grim picture of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

Humanitarian Aid Obstacles

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been further exacerbated by significant impediments to the delivery of aid. The World Food Programme (WFP) reported a distressing halt in aid delivery to the north for over a month, with Israeli forces blocking its entry. Aid trucks, vital for addressing the escalating crisis, have been mostly immobilized, exacerbating the dire situation on the ground.

Foreign militaries have resorted to air-dropping supplies over heavily affected areas, such as Rafah and Gaza's main southern city, Khan Yunis. This aerial approach, while providing some relief, underscores the severe limitations on ground transportation due to access restrictions.

United Nations officials have accused Israel of systematically blocking aid, contributing to the alarming reality that at least one-quarter of Gaza's population is on the brink of famine. The humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, emphasized the formidable obstacles faced by aid organizations, including border crossing closures, movement restrictions, access denials, vetting procedures, and security risks. 

Carl Skau, the WFP’s deputy executive director, highlighted the unmanageable conditions faced by their staff on the ground, underscoring that the risk of famine is fuelled by the inability to bring critical food supplies into Gaza in sufficient quantities. 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported a sharp increase in the denial of aid missions' access to northern Gaza, with 56% of deliveries blocked in January, a stark rise from the 14% recorded in the preceding months from October to December. 

These humanitarian aid obstacles compound the dire circumstances faced by the people of Gaza, pushing the region closer to the precipice of a catastrophic famine.

Starvation as a Weapon of War

Disturbingly, starvation is rumored to be used as a weapon of war in Gaza. Israeli officials have publicly expressed their aim to deprive civilians of food, water, and fuel. Human Rights Watch has highlighted that Israeli forces are deliberately blocking the delivery of essential supplies, impeding humanitarian assistance, and targeting agricultural areas

Such actions, tantamount to war crimes, are in direct violation of international humanitarian law. The intentional deprivation of civilians of “objects indispensable to their survival”, including blocking relief supplies, is explicitly defined as a war crime by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Human Rights Watch emphasizes that Israel's policy of starving Gaza's population is not only a grave violation of human rights but also a deliberate and condemnable method of warfare.

Gaza stands at the brink of an imminent famine, a crisis exacerbated by the ongoing war and intentional obstruction of humanitarian aid

Urgent international intervention is required to address the immediate needs of the population, ensure unimpeded delivery of aid, and hold accountable those responsible for using starvation as a weapon of war.

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