Famine is 'imminent' in northern Gaza, with many facing 'catastrophic' levels of hunger: Report

The IPC report projected a risk of famine could occur by the end of May 2024.

March 18, 2024, 4:55 PM

Famine is "imminent" in northern Gaza, as the entire population of the strip experiences high levels of food insecurity amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, according to a report released Monday.

The report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) initiative said a famine in the north of the strip may occur between mid-March and the end of May unless an immediate cease-fire occurs so that essential food and supplies can be delivered consistently to Gazans.

"The conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met and the latest evidence confirms that famine is imminent in the northern governorates," the report said.

The report projects that northern Gaza will be classified as Phase 5, the highest stage of food insecurity equivalent to famine levels of starvation, in the next month and a half. Additionally, 70% of the remaining population in the north, or about 210,000 Gazans, will experience "catastrophic" levels of hunger, according to the report.

"Continued conflict and the near-complete lack of access to the northern governorates for humanitarian organizations and commercial trucks will likely compound heightened vulnerabilities and extremely limited food availability, access and utilization, as well as access to health care, water and sanitation," according to the report.

PHOTO: Palestinians gather to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City March 18, 2024.
Palestinians gather to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City March 18, 2024.
Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

Currently, the IPC classifies governorates in the south of Gaza, including Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah, in its Phase 4 category, meaning very high levels of malnutrition and only able to mitigate a lack of food through emergency strategies or a liquidation of assets.

However, the IPC says that in a worst-case scenario, the three governorates face a risk of famine through July 2024.

The report also found that the entire population of the Gaza Strip, about 2.23 million people, is facing high levels of food insecurity and, in the most likely scenario, an estimated 1.11 million people -- half of the population -- will be experiencing famine levels of hunger by mid-July. This is an increase from the 530,000 people who were predicted to experience this level of food insecurity in a previous IPC analysis, according to the report.

Multiple United Nations organizations have warned since January that more than half the population in Gaza faces "catastrophic hunger" -- especially northern Gaza, which the U.N. says has been largely cut off for months now. Some people in the north of the strip said they have been forced to eat bird feed in place of flour to stave off starvation.

The IPC report comes on the heels of a statement from the nonprofit organization CARE released Friday stating babies and toddlers in northern Gaza are dying from starvation.

At least 27 individuals have died from severe acute malnutrition and dehydration in northern Gaza, according to CARE. Of those individuals, 23 were children and the youngest was just a few days old, the organization said.

An analysis from CARE and its partner organization Juzoor looking at data from 1,329 children aged 2 and younger in northern Gaza showed children categorized as having moderate or severe malnutrition nearly doubled in February compared to January, from 16% to 29%.

"No one is suffering more in this war than those who have yet to utter their first word," Hiba Tibi, country director for CARE in the West Bank and Gaza, said in a press release.

"This war is causing an entire generation of children to lose their childhood and future. Imagine watching your baby perish in front of your eyes, simply because you cannot get her the food she needs? Imagine hearing your children's cries for bread, but there is nothing you can give them? The situation is simply unbearable, unjustifiable and needs to stop immediately," Tibi said.

Israel, with the support of Egypt, has restricted the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza since the terrorist group Hamas came to power in 2007.

Those restrictions tightened following Hamas' surprise attack in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas militants carried out an unprecedented incursion from Gaza into southern Israel by air, land and sea. More than 1,200 people in Israel were killed and 253 others were taken hostage by Hamas, according to Israeli authorities.

The Israeli government, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said it's determined to destroy Hamas and plans to invade Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where it says Hamas leaders are hiding and where Israeli officials believe some of the hostages are being kept in tunnels.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 72,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Oct. 7, amid Israel's ongoing ground operations and aerial bombardment of the strip, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. 

PHOTO: Palestinians gather to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City, March 18, 2024.
Palestinians gather to receive aid outside an UNRWA warehouse as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger in Gaza City, March 18, 2024.
Mahmoud Issa/Reuters

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has previously said Israel doesn't provide enough authorization to deliver sufficient aid and, even when it does give authorization, the fighting makes it difficult to deliver that aid.

Israeli officials have said Hamas steals aid once it enters Gaza and claim looting is also a problem. Israel continues to deny all accusations that it isn't letting enough aid into Gaza, and encourages other countries to send in aid, with Israeli officials saying the U.N., its partners and other aid agencies have created logistical challenges, resulting in a bottleneck. The U.N. disputes these claims. 

The head of the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs said last week there is "no limit on the amount of aid that can enter into Gaza."

According to local media outlets, aid trucks reached areas of northern Gaza, including Jabalia, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, over the weekend -- the first time in four months.

However, several U.N. agencies, including UNRWA and UNICEF, have called for a cease-fire so more aid can be delivered.

"Children's malnutrition is spreading fast and reaching unprecedented levels in #Gaza. Famine is looming. There is no time to waste," the UNRWA wrote in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Saturday.

ABC News' Nasser Atta contributed to this report.

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