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Gaza: UN warns of ‘almost imminent mass famine’

On Tuesday, the UN expressed alarm over “almost certain large-scale famine” in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the north of the besieged Palestinian territory, where lack of humanitarian access and a collapsed agricultural system make it “inevitable.”

“If nothing changes, famine in northern Gaza is inevitable,” Karl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Programme, told the UN Security Council. “We must persist and fulfill our responsibilities to ensure that this does not happen before our eyes,” he added.

And the northern Palestinian territory, besieged since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, sparked by the Palestinian Islamist movement’s bloody October 7 attack on Israeli soil, is not the only area at risk. “If nothing is done, we fear that widespread famine in the Gaza Strip is virtually inevitable,” added Ramesh Rajasingham on behalf of the head of the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA), Martin Griffiths.

‘Immediate’ action required

“It is now the end of February, and at least 576,000 people in the Gaza Strip – a quarter of the population – are one step away from famine. One in six children under two years of age in northern Gaza suffers from acute malnutrition and wasting. And virtually the entire population of Gaza depends on woefully inadequate humanitarian aid to survive,” he added, calling on the Council to act.

This meeting followed a letter sent to the Security Council on 22 February by Martin Griffiths detailing the direct and indirect impact of the war in Gaza on the food situation. In the text, seen by AFP on Tuesday, he calls for “immediate action” to “prevent famine caused by the conflict.”

In this regard, Council members must act to “ensure respect for humanitarian law, including the prohibition of the use of starvation of civilian populations as a method of warfare,” as well as the prohibition of the destruction of objects vital to survival (food, crops, livestock, agricultural assets etc.), he insists.

Agricultural production collapsed in May

“The most likely scenario is that agricultural production in the north will collapse by May,” Maurizio Martina, deputy director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, told the Council on Tuesday (FAO).

As of February 15, 46.2% of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip was damaged, agricultural buildings were “destroyed,” 339 hectares of greenhouses and more than a quarter of wells were destroyed, as well as about 70% of cows and 50% of livestock. small ruminants were killed, he noted. Not to mention, about 97% of groundwater is no longer suitable for human consumption.

And humanitarian aid continues to arrive in the Palestinian territory bit by bit. On Monday, the head of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, noted on X that in February the amount of aid flowing into Gaza fell by 50% compared to January.

However, “about 1,000 trucks with 15,000 tons of food are in Egypt and ready to go,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric noted on Tuesday. No convoy has been able to reach northern Gaza since January 23, according to the UN, which condemns obstruction by Israeli authorities.

Source: Le Parisien

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