Gazans at risk of famine as they continue to face emergency levels of hunger, report says


A high risk of famine remains in Gaza and the situation “remains catastrophic” as the war between Israel and Hamas continues, according to a report published Tuesday by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

“A high risk of famine persists throughout the Gaza Strip as long as the conflict continues and humanitarian access is restricted,” the report says. “Only the cessation of hostilities together with sustained humanitarian access to the entire Gaza Strip can reduce the risk of famine in the Gaza Strip.”

The report projects that 96% of Gaza’s population – more than 2 million people – will face crisis, emergency or catastrophic levels of food insecurity at least until the end of September. Nearly half a million people are expected to face catastrophic levels, the most severe level on the CPI scale, where people “experience extreme lack of food, hunger, and depleted coping capacity.”

“Given the unpredictability of the ongoing conflict and the challenges to humanitarian access, any significant change can lead to a very rapid deterioration towards famine,” the report says.

“The last few months have shown that humanitarian and food access and the prevalence of malnutrition can change very quickly, the risk of epidemics is increasing and eight months of extreme pressure on the lives of the population make them much more vulnerable to falling into famine,” said the report, compiled by the IPC’s Famine Review Committee.

The report’s conclusions echo testimonies from people on the ground about the terrible humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Nearly nine months of shelling and siege by Israel have strained the health care system, damaged water infrastructure, and created dire conditions for the entire population of more than 2.2 million people.

Increasing Israeli attacks on the southern city of Rafah have led to mass displacement and an outbreak of infectious diseases in sprawling tent camps where people cannot access basic health services. With no sign of an imminent ceasefire being agreed to stop the fighting, aid workers say the suffering of civilians on the ground will only worsen.

“The latest data show that, in order to purchase food, more than half of the households had to exchange their clothes for money and a third resorted to collecting garbage to sell it,” the report details in its “special snapshot.” “More than half also reported that they often have nothing to eat at home, and more than 20 percent go entire days and nights without eating.”

The report acknowledged that there were some improvements in the situation in northern Gaza, where the IPC warned in March that famine was imminent. Tuesday’s report assessed that, due to increased food deliveries in March and April, “available evidence does not indicate that a famine is currently occurring” in the north. However, he notes that the possibility remains throughout the Gaza Strip.

Although there were also some improvements in southern Gaza at the time, according to the report, the situation deteriorated with the launch of Israel’s military operations in Rafah. The Rafah crossing – a key transit route for humanitarian aid to Gaza – has been closed since early May, and only a handful of other land crossings remain open. Aid workers continue to face enormous risks as they attempt to distribute desperately needed aid in Gaza. Most of the infrastructure to support humanitarian work in Gaza has been destroyed in Israel’s war against Hamas.

“Humanitarian space in the Gaza Strip continues to shrink and the ability to provide safe assistance to populations is diminishing,” the report’s special snapshot says. “The recent trajectory is negative and very unstable. If this continues, the improvements seen in April could be quickly reversed.”

The report also “encourages all stakeholders who use the CPI for high-level decision-making to understand that whether or not a famine classification is confirmed does not in any way change the fact that extreme human suffering undoubtedly continues today in Gaza-Banda.”

“It does not change the immediate humanitarian imperative to address this civilian suffering by allowing full, safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access to and throughout the Gaza Strip, including through the cessation of hostilities,” the report continues.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has repeatedly called on the Netanyahu government to do more to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. US President Joe Biden warned in early April that Israel had to take immediate concrete steps or risk changes in US policy. So far, there have been no such changes in policy.

“We’ve seen them take steps that have been productive,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said last week. “When we see reports from humanitarian groups, say, the IPC which publishes reports from time to time, we will examine them. And if there are things that need to change, we will not hesitate to be direct with Israel about how they should make those changes. But we have seen an improvement in the incoming aid situation in the north, and we have seen something of a stagnation in the south. And that is what we want to see reversed.”

Meanwhile, aid workers warn that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable.

“In the north, when we raised the famine alarm, we were able to get more trucks in. So, for the moment, it’s better. It’s not great; “I don’t want to give false illusions that this is all going well, because it’s not,” said World Food Program director Cindy McCain. “There is still a great need in the north and it is complex. It is complex for this reason. It’s not just food they need. They need water, they need sanitation, they need health care. “All of those things contribute to famine.”

One humanitarian official told CNN: “I think we will very quickly return to the kind of trajectory we were seeing in the north. The scale will be much larger because in northern Gaza there were 300,000 people or so. “There are currently between one and a half million and 1.8 million people in the mid-southern areas who are in a similar situation.”

Kate Phillips-Barrasso of Mercy Corps added: “The population cannot endure these hardships any longer. The cost of military action has been too high and we fear that, without dramatic changes in the provision of humanitarian aid, the death toll will rise as people succumb to months of deprivation.

“The humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating and the specter of famine continues to hang over Gaza,” Phillips-Barrasso told CNN. “Even though some help is arriving, glaring contradictions persist. “Commercial trucks are allowed through, but humanitarian aid is limited, guarded at the border and, when allowed to cross, usually only reaches some city centers without adequate security.”

“Added to this suffering is the oppressive summer heat, lack of access to clean water, and increasing exposure to garbage and sewage. This lethal equation will undoubtedly lead to acute suffering and mortality,” he stated.

On Friday, the commissioner-general of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, called for the “uninterrupted, regular, coordinated and meaningful flow of humanitarian assistance.”

This story has been updated.

CNN’s Sana Noor Haq contributed to this report.

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