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Siege and Bombardment Threaten Gaza with 'Risk of Famine'

GAZA (Dec. 21, 2023)—The siege and bombardment of Gaza are pushing children and families there towards famine, Save the Children warned today. Newly released data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) shows one in four households in Gaza now face catastrophic food insecurity, including starvation. 

The analysis shows the entire population of Gaza is now at risk of famine and facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. This is the highest proportion of people facing food insecurity that the IPC has ever analyzed in any country or region in history.

There is almost no humanitarian aid reaching northern Gaza despite a significant number of civilians still living there, including those who were unable to flee, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.

Based on the new analysis, Save the Children fears that if the current siege and bombardment persist, thousands more children will die of starvation and related illness. Over 337,000 children under five and 155,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women across Gaza are estimated by the UN to need lifesaving nutrition  support, yet more than half of them are in northern Gaza and almost completely cut off from any humanitarian aid, including health services. At least 7,685 of these children are currently experiencing wasting or severe wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition for children, that can be fatal if left untreated. Children who are malnourished have a higher likelihood of dying from common illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, a significant fear as Gaza’s health care system faces total collapse and diseases spread

Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee, said: 

“Deliberately denying children access to lifesaving food and other essentials by restricting humanitarian aid, services, and goods and pushing a population into smaller and smaller areas that lack the basics to sustain life violates international humanitarian law and could amount to a war crime. The international community must prevent ‘atrocity crimes’ from unfolding as a moral imperative and as their legal obligation.

“A serious risk of growing food insecurity in some parts of Gaza is a catastrophic turning point in an already dire situation. Unless the Government of Israel immediately lifts the siege on humanitarian aid and goods, a generation of children in Gaza, who are under constant bombardment, will also suffer the long-term consequences of severe malnutrition. Many simply won’t survive.”

Access to food and water in Gaza is diminishing by the hour. Less than a fraction of the needed humanitarian aid is reaching communities due to the continuing siege and the extensive destruction and disruption of food production, including farms and bakeries. Aid deliveries into Gaza have only reached 15.4% of pre-escalation levels , with families forced to queue for days just to access food rations, according to the Food Security Sector in the occupied Palestinian territory. 

Gaza’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, with only a quarter of hospitals partially functional and completely overwhelmed with sick and injured civilians. Increasing levels of hunger and malnutrition leave thousands of children at risk of being stunted and at greater risk of disease, without the possibility of treatment.

Children who survive being malnourished can face long term consequences in their health and brain development. Malnourished girls are more likely to go on to be malnourished pregnant women, with increased risk of their newborn babies having growth failure. 

Save the Children calls for an immediate and definitive ceasefire, an end to the siege of Gaza, the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance, the resumption of basic services like water and electricity, and the resumption of commercial trucks’ entry into Gaza. 


Notes to Editors 

1. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) provides a common scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and malnutrition.

2. The latest IPC report for the occupied Palestinian territory found that 75% of households in northern governorates are classified as in IPC Phases 4 and 5. This means that they are potentially facing an extreme lack of food and high rates of acute malnutrition at a household level with imminent risk of starvation. In the south the situation is critical with 67% of households aligning with IPC Phase 4 (“emergency” phase where households either have large food consumption gaps which are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality or are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies) or higher. Around 25% of households in the southern governorates meet the criteria for IPC 5 Catastrophe. 

3. The standard definition of IPC 5 means that households have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. Starvation, death, destitution, and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. For Famine Classification, an area needs to have extreme critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.  

4. According to the State of Palestine’s Nutrition Cluster, an estimated 264,000 children under five and pregnant or lactating mothers remain in northern governorates in Gaza.

5. The Food Security Sector is a coordination group of UN agencies and NGOs focused on food security in the occupied Palestinian territory.

6. Even 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. The increased nutritional vulnerability of children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and the elderly is a particular source of concern.

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