Gaza Still at High Famine Risk, Aid Response Must Scale

Statement from Refugees International President Jeremy Konyndyk: 

“The updated IPC food security assessment for Gaza released today finds that the immediate emergence of territory-wide famine in Gaza has been temporarily avoided but that half a million Palestinians are in famine-like (IPC Phase V) conditions and all of Gaza continues to face high famine risk. Increased aid in March and April helped defer the worst-case scenario projected in the IPC’s March analysis, particularly in northern Gaza, but those gains are tenuous and are threatened by the ongoing Rafah offensive. This aligns with Refugees International’s own assessment of the situation during a research trip to the region earlier this month. 

No one should confuse this for adequate progress. The situation remains extremely precarious: the entire territory remains in a pre-famine emergency (IPC Phase IV) status, with high risk of famine throughout. Even in Phase IV, huge numbers of people are suffering from starvation and are unable to access the nutrition that they need. And the Rafah offensive is driving a rapid deterioration of conditions in southern and middle Gaza, where the majority of the population now resides. 

The IPC analysis makes clear that aid access has a direct bearing on famine risk, and that aid obstruction does as well. Through February – the period covered in the previous IPC analysis – aid obstruction by the Israeli government had put Gaza onto a sharp downward trajectory toward famine, most acutely in northern Gaza. Recent research interviews by Refugees International found telltale famine coping mechanisms among the population, including households eating weeds, grasses, and animal feed; skipping meals; women selling sex in order to pay for food; and households selling off all assets. Our interviews with health workers in Gaza also confirmed starvation-related deaths, both deaths from outright malnutrition and deaths from survivable injuries and disease that proved fatal due to the patients’ malnourishment.

In March, the Israeli government partially removed some impediments it had been imposing on humanitarian aid, allowing modest increases of aid and commercial food and opening additional access points into northern Gaza. These improvements allowed for higher food inflows in March and April, which helped to temporarily defer a worst-case famine scenario but still fell far short of definitively averting famine risk. And humanitarian access within Gaza still remained an enormous challenge and impediment to effective famine response. Our research confirmed a serious breakdown in law and order; consistent and arbitrary blockages of humanitarian action by IDF forces in Gaza; and repeated instances of IDF forces targeting or harassing humanitarian professionals.

Worryingly, the situation over the past month is once again moving in the wrong direction. As the IPC warns, and as Refugees International’s own research confirms, the Rafah offensive from May onward has hugely damaged aid capacity. The closure of the Rafah crossing and the critical insecurity surrounding the Kerem Shalom crossing have left aid groups with no reliable way to bring aid into southern and middle Gaza. The IDF evacuation orders in Rafah have collapsed the aid infrastructure there, which had been the primary hub for aid operations prior to May. The offensive also re-displaced over 1 million Palestinians toward other parts of Gaza, where they are much harder for humanitarians to reach. And despite promises to improve protection of humanitarian operations following the World Central Kitchen attack in late March, aid groups are still facing routine and unacceptable threats to their security from IDF conduct.

To definitively avert famine, rather than just temporarily defer it, there must be a dramatic step-change in both aid volumes and safe aid access. Until humanitarian groups can safely operate at scale to deliver relief aid and restore access to basic services in all parts of Gaza, a high risk of famine will persist. This should not be acceptable to anyone.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Etant Dupain at