Over 570,000 people living in the Gaza Strip are experiencing hunger as an aftermath of the violence Israel has been rolling out in the enclave since it responded to Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7.
The report from the United Nations and other aid agencies published by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) indicated how the onslaught and refusal to enter into a ceasefire have been causing “catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity.” According to the study conducted between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, on IPC’s five-phase scale for malnutrition, the entire population of Gaza is on Phase 3, with over 90 percent estimated to face high levels of acute food insecurity.
The third phase is defined as: “Households either have food consumption gaps that are reflected by high or above-usual acute malnutrition; or are marginally able to meet minimum food needs but only by depleting essential livelihood assets or through crisis-coping strategies.” Worse, it may even be higher.
“From Dec. 8 to Feb. 7, 2024, the entire population in the Gaza Strip is classified in IPC Phase 3 or above [Crisis or worse]. This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country. Among these, about 50 percent of the population is in Emergency [IPC Phase 4] and at least one in four households is facing catastrophic conditions [IPC Phase 5, Catastrophe]. These are characterized by households experiencing an extreme lack of food, starvation and exhaustion of coping capacities,” it said.
The paper concluded that though the levels of acute malnutrition and non-trauma-related mortality might not have yet crossed famine thresholds, “these are typically the outcomes of prolonged and extreme food consumption gaps.” It added that increased nutritional vulnerability of children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly is a particular source of concern at the moment.
The said study was released after Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel of committing a war crime by using starvation as a weapon of war against Gaza’s civilian population. As per the HRW, Israeli forces were “deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food and fuel, while willfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival.”
Public data revealed that over 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in the slaughter carried out by Israel and supported by the United States government. The figure includes over 8,000 children. When Israel’s onslaught first began after the initial Hamas attack on southern Israel in October, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced a “complete siege” on the already blockaded enclave and said Israel was fighting “human animals” in Gaza, which is home to over one million younger people. (Related: GENOCIDE by STARVATION: Israel’s bombing operations have exhausted the food supply in Gaza.)
Hunger compounded with diseases to cause more deaths in Gaza: WHO
As starvation becomes utterly prevalent in the Strip, the World Health Organization (WHO) also released a warning that illnesses, most acutely among children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and older people, are to be expected to thrive. WHO said that Gaza is already experiencing soaring rates of infectious diseases.
In fact, over 100,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported since mid-October and half of these are among young children under the age of five years, case numbers that are 25 times what was reported before the conflict. In addition, more than 150,000 cases of upper respiratory infection and numerous cases of meningitis, skin rashes, scabies, lice and chickenpox have been reported. Hepatitis is also suspected as many people present with the tell-tale signs of jaundice.
According to the WHO, since people scramble for food, malnutrition increases the risk of children dying from illnesses like diarrhea, pneumonia and measles, especially in a setting where they lack access to life-saving health services. “While a healthy body can more easily fight off these diseases, a wasted and weakened body will struggle. Hunger weakens the body’s defenses and opens the door to disease,” a WHO spokesperson said in a Dec. 21 article. “Even if the child survives, wasting can have life-long impacts as it stunts growth and impairs cognitive development.”
Furthermore, it alerted that breastfeeding mothers are also at high risk of malnutrition. From zero to six months of age, a mother’s milk is the best and safest food a baby can get. This protects the child from nutritional deficiencies and catching deadly diseases, especially when access to safe drinking water is extremely limited.
Lack of sanitation and hygiene and a collapsing health system further add to the toxic mix as over 1.9 million people have been displaced from their homes and over 1.4 million are staying in overcrowded shelters. These conditions expose them to infectious diseases. “In Gaza today, on average, there is only one shower for every 4,500 people and one toilet for every 220. Clean water remains scarce and there are rising levels of outdoor defecation. These conditions make the spread of infectious diseases inevitable. Unfortunately, access to health services across Gaza has gone down as the war continues to degrade the health system,” WHO said and further reiterated its call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
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