Palestinian vendor in Gaza

A Palestinian vender stops with his donkey cart to sell tomatoes in the southern Gaza Strip on November 15, 2023.

(Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

UN Agency Warns 'Immediate Possibility of Starvation' for People of Gaza

"Nearly the entire population is in desperate need of food assistance," said the World Food Program.

The United Nations World Food Program warned Thursday that nearly every single person in Gaza is "facing the immediate possibility of starvation" as the Israeli government continues to restrict the amount and kind of aid allowed to enter the besieged Palestinian territory.

"With only 10% of necessary food supplies entering Gaza since the beginning of the conflict, the strip now faces a massive food gap and widespread hunger as nearly the entire population is in desperate need of food assistance," the organization said in a statement. "Earlier this week, WFP confirmed the closure of the final bakery operating in partnership with the agency due to lack of fuel. Fuel shortages have triggered a crippling halt in bread production across all 130 bakeries in Gaza. Bread, a staple food for people in Gaza, is scarce or non-existent."

The Israeli government, which has been accused of "using starvation as a weapon of war," reportedly approved a plan Thursday that would allow fuel shipments to enter southern Gaza via the Egyptian border on a daily basis, but it's unclear whether that will be anywhere close to sufficient to alleviate the spiraling humanitarian catastrophe.

As Axiosreported Friday, "Israel earlier this week allowed a limited supply of fuel to be used to refuel trucks the U.N. uses to deliver humanitarian aid. The U.N. said, however, it wasn't near enough to fulfill the needs in Gaza," which is home to more than 2 million people—around half of whom are children.

The WFP said Thursday that fuel shortages are "crippling humanitarian distribution and operations, including the delivery of food assistance."

"Even as trucks arrived from Egypt and offloaded supplies in Gaza on Tuesday, they were unable to reach civilians in shelters because of insufficient fuel for distribution vehicles," the U.N. organization said. "Of the 1,129 trucks that have entered Gaza since the opening of the Rafah border crossing on 21 October, only 447 were carrying food supplies. While WFP welcomes the increase in the number of trucks crossing into Gaza, the volume remains woefully inadequate."

"The Israeli government should immediately end its total blockade of the Gaza Strip, an act of collective punishment and a war crime."

By WFP's estimate, food that has entered Gaza since October 7 has only been enough to meet 7% of Gazans' daily caloric needs. Across the devastated strip, food markets have shut down or completely run out of essentials.

"The small quantities of food that can be found are being sold at alarmingly inflated prices and are of little use without the ability to cook, forcing some to survive on one meal a day," WFP said. "For the lucky, that includes more than solely canned food, though some people have resorted to consuming raw onions and uncooked eggplants."

Samer Abdeljaber, the WFP's representative and country director in Palestine, said Thursday that "the collapse of food supply chains is a catastrophic turning point in an already dire situation, where people have been stripped of basic necessities."

"Without access to fuel, our ability to provide bread or transport food to those in need has been severely compromised, essentially bringing life in Gaza to a standstill," said Abdeljaber. "People are going hungry."

The increasingly severe shortage of food is one of many crises facing ordinary Gazans as they attempt to shelter from Israel's airstrikes and expanding ground attack.

A. Kayum Ahmed, special adviser on the right to health at Human Rights Watch, wrote Thursday that the lack of clean water across the strip is "resulting in 'grave concerns' by public health experts of an imminent infectious disease outbreak in Gaza, including waterborne illnesses like cholera and typhoid."

"Since the start of the blockade, water shortages and contamination have severely impeded healthcare access, made people sick, and have already led to the outbreak of diseases, creating a public health crisis," Ahmed added. "The Israeli government should immediately end its total blockade of the Gaza Strip, an act of collective punishment and a war crime, restore water and electricity access, and allow desperately needed food, medical aid, and fuel into Gaza, including via its crossing at Kerem Shalom."

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