Warnings Ignored: Gaza is Entering Famine and this Conflict Must End

Statement from Refugees International: 

“The world has failed Palestinians in Gaza. 

In December, the IPC’s Famine Review Committee issued an urgent warning that without a major reduction in the conflict and increase in humanitarian aid, Gaza would face a famine in the next several months. That warning was largely ignored. It prompted no significant reduction in conflict intensity and no significant increase in humanitarian access. The Israeli government continued indiscriminate military attacks, restrictions on aid operations, and attacks on critical health activities. Hamas showed no greater urgency to negotiate a hostage release and extended truce. The Biden administration meanwhile did little to deploy additional leverage upon the Israeli government in light of its clear obstruction of humanitarian aid.

With the new projections released today, the cost of that inaction is clear: the opportunity to avert famine in Gaza has been lost. A famine is now getting underway.

These signals could not be more clear:

  • Famine thresholds for acute food insecurity have already been surpassed. Over half of the population (1.1 million) are at the famine-equivalent levels of hunger (IPC-5), including 70 percent in northern Gaza. This is an increase from 17 percent of Gaza’s population in ICP-5 in December 2023. Today every person in Gaza is experiencing famine or pre-famine levels of food insecurity (IPC 4+).
  • Monitors assess that famine thresholds for severe acute malnutrition have likely been surpassed. In northern Gaza, 31 percent of children under 2 are acutely malnourished – a doubling since January. Even in Rafah, which has comparatively better access to aid, child malnutrition has doubled since January, and severe wasting has quadrupled – a terrifying acceleration of starvation.
  • There are now ample signs that famine-related mortality is beginning, particularly among children. Available evidence points to a steep rise in child mortality, and growing numbers of deaths from obvious starvation.
  • Experts estimate famine conditions will encompass the whole of Gaza between mid-March and May this year, and are likely underway in northern Gaza. 

The Biden administration bears a special responsibility to address this unfolding horror. The United States continues to back Israel’s military offensive and supply military assistance that Israel has used to violate international law. Moreover, the United States has repeatedly blocked and watered down timely UN Security Council action to halt the conflict and address obstruction of humanitarian action. The United States continues to withhold aid for UNRWA, despite U.S. intelligence estimates that raised major questions about sweeping Israeli allegations against the agency. 

President Biden must now deploy every form of leverage at his administration’s disposal to avert what will be a wave of civilian mortality that could far exceed battle deaths. The recent shift in the administration’s public tone toward the Netanyahu government’s humanitarian obstruction is welcome, if long overdue. But it must be matched by action.

Only a massive scale-up of unfettered humanitarian assistance through the UN and NGOs (including UNRWA), and restoration of cross-border commercial trade, can reverse the current trajectory. Airdrops and time-consuming maritime corridors are wholly insufficient to meet this scale of need within the timeframe necessary to prevent mass mortality. All border crossings into Gaza must be utilized for UN and NGO trucks to surge aid and services into Gaza. Humanitarians need unimpeded passage throughout Gaza to deliver lifesaving assistance, restore health services, ensure access to clean water, and scale up malnutrition treatment. None of this will be possible until the conflict is halted. 

Refugees International reiterates our call for an immediate ceasefire, unfettered humanitarian access, the restoration of basic services, and the unconditional release of all remaining hostages. Israel must open its borders for the delivery of aid by United Nations agencies and humanitarian NGOs, whom it routinely continues to block from accessing northern Gaza. The international community should review all options on the table – including suspending military assistance – to compel Israel’s compliance. The use of starvation as a weapon of war has no place in today’s world.”

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Etant Dupain at edupain@refugeesinternational.org.