'Death knell': Famine imminent in north Gaza

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.
Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Copyright Fatima Shbair/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Joshua Askew
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"Children are famine’s first victims and are already dying in Gaza because of malnutrition," warned one NGO. "Every minute counts."

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An NGO has warned that famine is "just weeks away" in northern Gaza, with many indicators of mass starvation "already exceeded". 

Citing data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), Save the Children said in a statement that 1.1 million people across Gaza - equating to half the enclave's population - are facing "catastrophic food insecurity." 

Famine will occur any time between now and May 2024, the IPC estimated.

“We have a clear time frame to stave off famine, and it demands urgency," said Xavier Joubert, Country Director for Save the Children in the occupied Palestinian territory in a statement. 

"If a famine is declared, it will already be too late for too many people – children are famine’s first victims and are already dying in Gaza because of malnutrition," he continued. "Every minute counts for them." 

Families in Gaza are surviving off wheat, hay and animal food, according to Save the Children.

Palestinians flee from east to west of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, during the ongoing Israeli bombardment, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Palestinians flee from east to west of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, during the ongoing Israeli bombardment, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.Fatima Shbair/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

The UN said on Friday one in three children under the age of two in northern Gaza were suffering from acute malnutrition due to the impacts of the Israel Hamas war and restrictions on aid delivery. 

Northern Gaza - where some 300,000 people remain trapped - has been largely cut off from the rest of the strip amid Israeli military operations. 

Humanitarian organisations have accused Israel of "deliberately" blocking aid to famine-stalked Gaza, meanwhile. 

Oxfam on Monday claimed aid trucks are waiting an average of 20 days to access the battered enclave, with Israel using bureaucracy to hinder aid supplies headed to Gaza. 

On 13 March, one of the few remaining UNRWA food distribution centres in Gaza was hit by Israeli forces, killing one staff member and injuring another 22 civilians. 

Western countries and organisations have reacted to the looming famine by trying to deliver more food aid to Gaza, with the US making its first Gaza aid airdrop earlier this month. 

However, human rights organisations have criticised deliveries of aid into Gaza by air and sea, claiming they are “not an alternative" to land.

Most of those who have fled the north are now crammed into makeshift tents in the southern border city of Rafah. 

Here there has been a "near-total breakdown" in food supply, clean water and sanitation systems detailed Save the Children.

Palestinians line up to receive free meals at Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday, March 18, 2024.
Palestinians line up to receive free meals at Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday, March 18, 2024.Mahmoud Essa/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.

The NGO called for a ceasefire to stave off the enfolding humanitarian disaster. 

“Make no mistake – it is a human-made crisis that has led as many as a third of Gaza’s children into the grips of acute malnutrition," said Save the Children Country Director Joubert. 

"There are trucks of food, water and medical supplies queuing at one side of a border, while children and families starve on the other."   

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"It should be on the collective conscience of Israeli authorities and the international community that every day without an immediate, definitive ceasefire and unfettered access for and to humanitarian aid is another catastrophic day of starvation and suffering, another step towards famine and another death knell for Gaza’s children," he continued.

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