Imminent famine in Gaza: MAP reacts to IPC food security figures

Despite repeated warnings from humanitarian organisations, including Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and the UN, an imminent famine is now taking hold in Gaza, with children already dying from starvation, and scores more at risk unless urgent international action is taken immediately. 

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report on the situation in Gaza published today also states that half of the population across Gaza now faces catastrophic levels of hunger, meaning people are starving and at risk of acute malnutrition and death. This is twice as many people as reported in November.  

The report warns that the rest of Gaza could also be in famine by July, especially if an assault on Rafah goes ahead as planned and Israeli restrictions on humanitarian access continue. 

Melanie Ward, MAP’s CEO, said:  

“The Israeli government has created a situation where famine is now imminent in Gaza. This is not happening because the rains have failed or there has been a poor harvest. It is because starvation is being used as a weapon of war; the Israeli authorities refuse to allow enough food into Gaza to sustain life.  

Back in January, MAP warned that our doctors in Gaza were seeing evidence of serious malnutrition amongst children. In the face of this and multiple other warnings, world leaders have fiddled at the edges rather than take decisive action which addresses the cause of this starvation. Aid convoys have been denied access and starving people shot and killed as they waited for aid trucks. Meanwhile, famine is taking hold. Now world leaders must insist that Israel immediately opens all land crossings into Gaza, particularly the Karni and Erez crossings, and allows safe and unfettered access for aid and aid workers.  

Children in Gaza are being starved at the fastest rate the world has ever known, and their survival depends on more food, fuel and water entering Gaza immediately, as well as a lasting ceasefire.” 

Today’s IPC report also shows that one in three children under two-years-old in the north of Gaza are now acutely malnourished, a dramatic deepening of the crisis from February when the figure was one in six. 

Acute malnutrition at this crucial stage affects a child’s development, irreversibly damaging their brains and their immune systems, putting them at a disadvantage for life and sharply increasing the likelihood that they will die young, even if they make it through the next few weeks.  

Dr Hussam Abu Safiya, head of the paediatric department at Kamal Adwan Hospital in the north of Gaza, said:  

“Amid the famine in the north, there are many cases of elderly people and especially children showing symptoms of dehydration and malnutrition. 25-30 children are admitted to the hospital on a daily basis, with half of them suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. One child, two months old, died today because of dehydration and malnutrition. Other children are on the same trajectory unless the situation is addressed soon. 

“As a medical team managing the hospital, we have not been able to secure even one meal. Everyone is suffering from physical weakness and extreme exhaustion. Our staff are worn out working 24/7 without food.” 

As we approach six months of Israel’s military bombardment and total closure of Gaza which has caused a humanitarian catastrophe, MAP calls on the UK government and the international community to intervene, to protect the healthcare system, and to insist that aid is allowed into Gaza at scale. 

Constant Israeli military airstrikes and the denial of electricity and water have decimated the ability of bakeries, the agricultural sector, and the fishing industry in Gaza to produce bread and fresh food.  

In January, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), issued legally binding provisional measures to prevent the risk of genocide, ordering Israel to facilitate the flow of aid and lessen humanitarian suffering in Gaza. Aid deliveries into Gaza halved in the month following the ICJ’s ruling.  

As the occupying power in Gaza, Israel bears the legal responsibility to ensure that the occupied population receives food and medical supplies. The arbitrary denial of humanitarian access or deliberate obstruction of relief supplies constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law. Israel’s allies, including the UK government, must publicly hold Israel accountable for using starvation as a method of warfare, and ensure that it immediately desists.

Photo: A two-year-old girl getting her middle-upper-arm-circumference (MUAC) measured. Her MUAC reads less than 10, indicating severe acute malnutrition, drastic weight loss, and muscle atrophy. Credit: UNICEF/ Eyad El Baba.

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