Palestinian Territory – A recently issued report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Famine Review Committee (FRC) states that the Committee was unable to determine whether or not famine thresholds have been passed in the Gaza Strip,due to a lack of essential up-to-date data in midst of Israel’s genocidal war, ongoing since 7 October 2023.

The International Committee’s report does not deny that there is extreme hunger in the Gaza Strip; rather, the core of its argument is that there is insufficient information to make a firm determination that the situation in the Strip has devolved into famine. The Committee therefore urges all sides to allow for the conducting of field surveys in northern Gaza in order to gather more reliable data on the state of food consumption, nutrition, and mortality there.

The Committee stated that “whether a Famine classification is confirmed does not in any manner change the fact that extreme human suffering is without a doubt currently ongoing in the Gaza Strip and does not in any manner change the immediate humanitarian imperative to address this civilian suffering by enabling complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained humanitarian access into and throughout the Gaza Strip, including through ceasing hostilities.”

Though the Committee has not been able to conclusively determine whether famine has occurred in the Gaza Strip or whether the roughly 2.3 million people living there are at significant risk of it, the Committee was able to confirm the classification of the ongoing hunger crisis as a humanitarian emergency.

To accurately and consistently assess the level of famine risk in Gaza, the FRC and other international committees must move quickly to identify any obstructing parties that might hinder their ability to gather sufficient and thorough information or conceal data that is required for a thorough assessment of the situation.

Last May, 70 human rights organisations called in a joint statement for an official declaration of famine in Gaza in light of the rapid spread of food scarcity and increasingly high rates of acute malnutrition among all groups, especially children.

Famine is a technical term that refers to a population facing widespread malnutrition and hunger-related deaths, due to a lack of access to food. According to the United Nations, a famine occurs when three conditions are met in a specific geographic area, whether a town, village, city, or country: at least 20 per cent of the population in that particular area are facing extreme levels of hunger;

30 per cent of the children in the same place are wasted, or too thin for their height; and the death—or mortality—rate has doubled, from the average, surpassing two deaths per 10,000 daily for adults and four deaths per 10,000 daily for children.

Food insecurity is increasing throughout the Gaza Strip due to Israel’s insistence on committing the crime of starvation and using it as a weapon of war against the Palestinian people in the Strip. This includespreventing and restricting humanitarian aid, closing crossings, and imposing a tight siege on the enclave, and is part of a larger Israeli crime of genocide there.

A total of 49 child deaths in the Gaza Strip have been attributed to hunger and food insecurity, and an additional 3,500 children are at risk of death from malnutrition, inadequate vaccinations, and deficiency in nutritional supplements. They are currently suffering greatly from thin bodies, unusually pale faces, and dull eyes due to the widespread phenomenon of emaciation, acute weakness, and epidemics.

Based on charges of using starvation as a method of war, including deliberately obstructing relief supplies, the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor filed a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to issue arrest warrants against the Israeli Prime Minister and the Israeli Minister of Defense. Additionally, they have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip since 7 October.

The United States Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) stated on 31 May that northern Gaza has been experiencing a famine (IPC Phase 5) since at least 1 April with “reasonable evidence”.FEWS NET also predicted that the famine willcontinue through at least 31 July, unless there are major changes in the provision of food aid. 

Along the same line, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) saidthat many households in the Gaza Strip report having only one meal a day, with some having just one meal every two or three days, and are relying mostly on bread, sharing food with other families, and rationing stocks.

According to the WHO, access constraints continue to severely undermine the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance and services across the GazaStrip, and Israeli authorities have prevented or obstructed more than 60% of organised international humanitarian missions to the northern Gaza Strip. 

A second report from the working group responsible for IPC classification was released on 18 March andaddresses the food situation in the Gaza Strip, confirming that the Strip’s entire population isexperiencing high levels of acute food insecurity. As of the report’s release, half of these people were in IPC Phase 5 (the disaster/famine stage).

This comes amid a lack of cash flow and collapse of job opportunities and local production in the Strip which has rendered all civilians there dependent on foreign humanitarian aid; therefore, its complete cessation would deprive them of any access to food and necessities essential for survival.

Therefore, the Famine Review Committee’s inability to declare the current food situation in the Gaza Strip to be a famine does not negate the existence of famine in the Strip, as pockets of famine are forming and spreading among different age groups, particularly children, and there is a noticeable increase in deaths from hunger, malnutrition, and related diseases. The Committee’s failure to declare the existence of a famine is solely related to its inability to provide certain technical information because of illegal Israeli restrictions and policies that aim to conceal evidence related to the crimes it commits and prevent criminalinvestigations into them by independent UN and international committees, particularly by preventing the these committees from entering the Strip.

Immediate international action is required to ensure that humanitarian operations in the Gaza Strip are fully facilitated. This action includes removing all barriers and restrictions to humanitarian aid and enabling the entry of life-saving supplies and their movement through crossings and land routes in a timely, efficient, and effective manner. This includes allowing the entry of basic food and non-food items required to respond to the environmental and health disaster, especially into the north of the Strip.

Since Israel’s genocide against the people of the Gaza Strip is the primary cause of the famine, the international community is both morally and legally obligated to put an end to it. Only then can the provision of humanitarian aid and the restoration of basic services be discussed as a viable means of containing the famine’s spread and its effects.