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Middle East

Starvation in Gaza: Agencies report widespread deaths and long-term harm

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  • Over a million Palestinians in Gaza face severe food shortages and malnutrition due to the ongoing conflict and humanitarian access restrictions.
  • More than 3,500 children under the age of five are at risk of death from acute malnutrition and lack of essential services.
  • International agencies are calling for urgent humanitarian intervention to prevent further deaths and long-term harm.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached a critical point, with starvation already causing numerous deaths and long-lasting harm, particularly among the most vulnerable populations. According to recent reports from various international agencies, the situation is dire, with over a million Palestinians facing severe food shortages and malnutrition.

The United Nations agencies, including the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have issued stark warnings about the escalating food insecurity in Gaza. They report that stringent humanitarian access restrictions and the collapse of the local food system have exacerbated the crisis, which has been ongoing for nearly eight months due to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

In northern Gaza, where Israeli troops have surrounded and isolated the area, the situation is particularly severe. Despite recent openings of land crossings, the limited aid that can be transported daily is insufficient to meet the needs of hundreds of thousands of people. The southern region is also struggling, with the Rafah crossing closed by Egypt, further complicating aid distribution efforts.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) reported in March that around 677,000 people in Gaza were experiencing Phase 5 hunger, the highest level of food insecurity, equivalent to famine. This number is projected to surge to over 1 million by mid-May if the hostilities continue and access to humanitarian aid remains restricted.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has also raised alarms, suggesting that famine may already be underway in northern Gaza. The ongoing conflict and access restrictions have hindered data collection, making it difficult to confirm the extent of the crisis. However, the signs are clear: people are dying from hunger-related causes, and the situation is expected to worsen without significant changes in aid distribution.

The Gaza government has reported severe shortages of essential supplies, including milk, food, nutritional supplements, and vaccinations for children. More than 3,500 children under the age of five are at risk of death due to acute malnutrition and the lack of essential services. The blockade of the Rafah crossing has prevented humanitarian aid from entering for almost a month, leading to tragic outcomes, such as the recent death of a 13-year-old child from starvation.

International agencies and humanitarian organizations are calling for urgent action to address the crisis. Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the WFP, emphasized the need for immediate intervention to prevent further loss of life. "Once a famine is declared, it is too late – many people will have already starved to death. We must act now to stop these hotspots from igniting a firestorm of hunger," she stated.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported that access constraints continue to hinder the safe delivery of life-saving assistance throughout Gaza. The conditions have further deteriorated, with some residents forced to drink sewage water and eat animal feed due to the lack of clean water and food.

The international community is being urged to fulfill its responsibilities and provide the necessary resources and political will to implement solutions at scale. The situation in Gaza is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of conflict on vulnerable populations and the urgent need for coordinated humanitarian efforts to alleviate suffering and save lives.

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