Is North Gaza Headed Towards Famine? What The New UN Report Says - Explained

An alarming new report by the United Nations Food Agency released on Monday revealed that famine is now projected and imminent in the North Gaza somewhere between mid-March 2024 to May 2024

Members of the Al-Rabaya family break their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan outside their destroyed home by the Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, March 18, 2024. Photo: AP

Even as the holy month of Ramadan began, around 677,000 people - nearly a third of the population of 2.3 million - in Gaza are experiencing the highest level of catastrophic hunger, the United Nations said on Monday, warning that a further escalation of Israel’s war on the region could push around half of Gaza's total population to the brink of starvation.

Northern Gaza including Gaza city was the first target of the Israeli army when the war escalated in October 2023. More than five months later, the region has become the epicentre of Gaza's humanitarian catastrophe, with many residents reduced to eating animal feed, AP reported. 

Is Gaza headed towards famine?

An alarming new report by the United Nations Food Agency released on Monday revealed that, “famine is now projected and imminent in the North Gaza and Gaza Governorates and is expected to become manifest during the projection period from mid-March 2024 to May 2024.”

The latest data, as per the report, shows that people are resorting to eating animal fodder, scavenging or begging in areas where the food shortage situation is dire. “This is the largest number of people facing imminent famine in the world today, and it has only taken five months to occur,” said Matthew Hollingworth, the acting World Food Programme country director for the Palestinian territories.

UN officials have said that while it is possible to turn the situation around, a ceasefire must be implemented immediately along with a consistent flow of massive amounts of aid.

Is aid being allowed to enter Gaza?

While Israel denies that it is restricting entry of aid into Gaza, aid groups say distribution is impossible in much of the region because of ongoing hostilities, the difficulty of coordinating with the military and the breakdown of law and order.

At present, aid can enter through the Rafah crossing – the only passage from Gaza that is not controlled by Israel and a vital link between the besieged strip and the rest of the world. On an average, 500 aid trucks would enter Gaza every day before the war, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But now, only a small amount of aid trickles in – 10 trucks on some days and 200 on good days – as per U.N. figures.

What is the progress on ceasefire talks?

Hamas had presented a new ceasefire deal on March 15 to end Israel’s war on Gaza. The proposal would be three-phased with each phase lasting 42 days, and would include release of Israeli captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners along with initiating reconstruction process of Gaza, according to a report by Al Jazeera. However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office claimed that the proposal was still based on “unrealistic demands”.

Meanwhile, US Secretary Of State Antony Blinken is expected to meet senior leaders in Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to “discuss the right architecture for lasting regional peace”. Providing more humanitarian aid into Gaza as well as discussing post-war planning for the region are among the topics he will discuss with them, according to AFP.

But at the same time, Netanyahu vowed on March 17 to send ground forces into Gaza's southern Rafah city despite growing international concern over the fate of Palestinian civilians sheltering there. Ever since the war escalated in October, Netanyahu has reiterated that Israel’s offensive on Gaza will not stop until ‘Hamas is completely destroyed’. "To do this, we will also operate in Rafah," he told a Cabinet meeting on Sunday.