Gaza famine ‘almost inevitable’ if ‘something doesn’t change’: UN

Famine in Gaza is almost inevitable unless the Israeli war on the Palestinian enclave changes, the United Nations said.

The UN and other humanitarian actors have not yet declared a state of famine in Gaza, despite worsening conditions in the Palestinian territory since the war started on October 7.

However, “once a famine is declared, it is too late for too many people”, said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, on Friday.

“We don’t want to get to that situation and we need things to change before that,” he told a briefing in Geneva.

Israel has launched a deadly military offensive on Gaza since an Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian group Hamas, which Tel Aviv says killed nearly 1,200 people.

At least 30,035 Palestinians have since been killed and 70,457 others injured amid mass destruction and shortages of necessities.

Humanitarian agencies say conditions for the 2.2 million people in Gaza are now dire.

“We have to look at what more and more voices, more and more loudly, are saying about the food security situation across the Gaza Strip, in particular in the north,” said Laerke.

“If something doesn’t change, a famine is almost inevitable on the current trends.”

In Somalia in 2011, when famine was officially declared, half of the total number of victims of the disaster had already died of starvation.

Laerke cited the near-total closure of commercial food imports, the “trickle of trucks” coming in with food aid, and the “massive access constraints” to moving around inside the Palestinian territory.

High speed’ famine

“All these things combined lead us to this warning that we do have a very, very dire situation coming towards us at very high speed,” he said.

World Health Organization spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said that according to statistics compiled by the Palestinian health ministry, 10 children have been “officially registered, in a hospital, as having starved to death”.

“The unoffical numbers can unfortunately be expected to be higher,” he told the briefing.

Laerke said seeing such warning signs were extremely worrying, particularly given than the food security before the war was relatively good.

The coastal territory had been producing its own food, but now, “the production of foodstuff within Gaza itself is almost impossible”, including the key fishing industry which has “completely stopped”.

“So the very foundation for people’s daily sustenance is being ripped away,” he said.

Israeli forces in war-ravaged Gaza opened fire Thursday as Palestinian civilians scrambled for food aid during a chaotic incident which the health ministry said killed more than 100 people.

The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of desperate Palestinians in Gaza surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over.

The UN was not involved in the convoy.

“People are so desperate for food, for fresh water, for any supplies, they risk their lives in getting any food, any supplies to support their children and themselves,” Lindmeier said.

“This is the real catastrophe here: that food and supplies are so scarce that we see these situations.”