Catastrophic famine ‘imminent’ in Gaza, UN-backed report warns

Fears mount over food supply as Israel accused of using starvation as ‘weapon of war’

Smoke rises in the northern Gaza Strip (Ariel Schalit/AP)
The northern Gaza Strip, where famine is 'imminent' following five months of Israel's war against Hamas. POCTURE: ARIEL SCHALIT/AP (Ariel Schalit/AP)

A time window to prevent famine in Gaza is shutting “very fast” it has been warned, following a United Nations-backed report into the desperate situation facing people in the Palestinian territory.

The report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) body said the northern part of Gaza could see hunger-linked death rates at famine levels within two months.

Food insecurity and malnutrition levels have already likely exceeded famine levels, the report said, following five months of Israel’s war against Hamas.

Palestinians rush to collect the humanitarian aid airdropped into Gaza City, Gaza Strip on March 17 (Mohammed Hajjar/AP)
Palestinians rush to collect the humanitarian aid airdropped into Gaza City on Sunday. PICTURE: MOHAMMED HAJJAR/AP (Mohammed Hajjar/AP)

In the wake of Israel’s invasion, which began in October, around 300,000 people are thought to be trapped in northern Gaza.

The IPC has warned that famine is likely to occur in the region “imminently”.

There has been rising pressure on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza, with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accusing the Israeli government of “provoking famine” and saying: “Starvation is used as a weapon of war.”

He claimed Gaza was already in a “state of famine, affecting thousands of people”.

The IPC report said “the upward trend in non-trauma mortality is also expected to accelerate” in northern Gaza, “resulting in all famine thresholds likely to be passed imminently”.

Since the last IPC report in December, the number of people in northern Gaza projected to experience “catastrophic” hunger by min-July has almost doubled to over 1.1 million.

Almost two-thirds of households in the north of Gaza saw people going entire days and nights without eating at least 10 times in the last 30 days, the report highlighted, with one-third of households in the south doing the same.

The IPC said central and southern Gaza also face a risk of famine by July under a worst-case scenario.

Famine could be avoided if the conflict ceased and aid organisations could increase access to those in need, the report stated.

Arif Husain, chief economist of the World Food Programme, said: “The window is shutting, and it is shutting very, very fast.

He added: “We must act and we must act now. When famine happens, people have already starved, children are already wasted, and many, many, many lives are already lost.”

Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, has claimed prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has allowed “extensive humanitarian aid into Gaza by land, air, and sea for anyone willing to help”. He said in an X social media post that Hamas was “violently disrupting aid convoys” with “collaboration” by U.N aid agency UNRWA.

It is estimated over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October.

Mr Netanhayu has confirmed Israel plans to launch an offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where around 1.5 million Palestinians from across Gaza have taken refuge.