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March 18, 2024

In response to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report forecasting imminent famine in northern Gaza, ActionAid has denounced the announcement as a “stain on humanity’s conscience.” The report warns that 70% of people in northern Gaza are on the brink of famine unless urgent measures are taken to facilitate large-scale aid delivery and avert catastrophic hunger. Since the last analysis in December 2023, the conditions laid out by the IPC that were necessary to prevent famine have not been met and the latest evidence confirms that famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024. 

The report highlighted ongoing hostilities, mass forced displacement, and restricted humanitarian access as key drivers. Over the last several months, Israeli forces have prevented thousands of tons of aid from crossing by road into Rafah and into northern Gaza where the crisis is most severe. 

Over the last 15 years, the IPC has announced famine in only two countries – after extreme hunger in Somalia in 2011 claimed the lives of 260,000 people and after war and drought drove famine to be declared in parts of South Sudan in 2017 and plunged millions into acute food insecurity.   

Recently, UN officials stated that a quarter of Palestinians in Gaza were a step away from famine. On Friday, UNICEF reported that a staggering 1 in 3 children are acutely malnourished with the IPC reporting today that nearly all households are reducing their meals so that their children can eat. The IPC report pointed towards a steep rise in child deaths – which IPC experts believe may signal the imminent onset of famine. 

Balsam*, a nutritionist in Gaza, spoke about how young children are starting to die due to malnutrition:

“Pregnant women are suffering malnutrition during this war. They cannot get the proper nutrients that both the mother and [their unborn baby] require. [Pregnant] women need to have a proper diet. They need a full range of foods, especially animal protein. In the current circumstances we live in, and in this horrendous war, women, children, and the elderly are suffering from malnutrition. This is due to the lack of healthy and nutritious foods. 
Many women suffer health problems and that has caused weight loss issues in both women and babies. Babies are born with a weight below 3.5 kilograms, which is the normal average weight for a newborn. That is a result of the shortage in nutritious food, especially for pregnant women.” 

Even though there have been attempts to get food and aid to those in need, reports of alleged attacks by Israeli forces on UN aid distribution centres have threatened the safety of aid deliveries across Gaza, leaving many without lifesaving aid such as food and medical supplies. Since the war began, UNRWA has recorded an unprecedented number of violations against its staff and facilities, with at least 165 UNRWA team members killed, and more than 150 facilities targeted. The dire need for an immediate and permanent ceasefire is apparent now more than ever. 

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, around 2,000 doctors and medical staff in northern Gaza face severe starvation, leaving them exhausted and unable to feed themselves properly while working around the clock to save lives.  

One of these doctors is Dr. Mohammed Obeid, a consultant orthopedic surgeon in Al-Awda Hospital, ActionAid’s partner in northern Gaza, said:

“Many of us living here in northern Gaza, especially the medical team and others working in the hospital, suffer weight loss and muscle weakness. That is due to the lack of nutrition such as protein and carbs. 

Now, the global community recognizes the dire circumstances we face in northern Gaza. We are experiencing significant shortages in food supplies, particularly in bread and flour. And overall, there is a widespread shortage of food and nutrition. Providing food, whether for patients or doctors, is extremely challenging. Patients need a mix of proteins, vitamins, and carbohydrates for recovery. Orthopedic patients require nutrition for their wounds to heal. We suffer major shortages in food and nutrition. Which has a negative impact on the healing process.” 

The lack of aid and supplies available in Gaza has also led to a spike in market prices for necessities such as baby formula, diapers, flour and other essential items. 

Dr. Obeid continues: “[Food] supplies are being sold at prices that are 80 to 100 times higher than their original cost. Items that were once purchased for one dollar now cost between 70 and 80 [dollars – between £55 and £62]. The market does not provide many supplies of any kind… even when you have the money, you still can’t obtain a meal for yourself, your children, or even the medical staff. 
Lack of nutrition results in health issues for the medical staff as well. They consistently experience low energy levels, impacting their productivity at work and [they] will not be able to last all day long. We don’t have a proper Iftar meal to break our fast. Most of us break our fast with a glass of water and dates, when available… This has a grave negative effect on the medical staff, who need their energy to do their hard work.” 

Riham Jafari, Communications and Advocacy Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:

“Palestinians have been living through six months of severe hunger – a never-ending nightmare claiming children’s lives while severely malnourished women give birth to stillborn babies. And still, the world watches on in silence. Today’s announcement is a collective stain on humanity’s conscience and a catastrophic indictment of Western nations who have slept walked into this disaster while offering little meaningful action to avert an imminent famine. 

After so many dire warnings in recent months, world leaders urgently need to wake up to the sheer scale of this catastrophe. Waiting for confirmation that famine has occurred to take the urgent steps needed to scale up aid would be indefensible – we need an immediate and permanent ceasefire now.” 


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593.

Spokespeople are available:

  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine

About ActionAid   

ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.   

Support Palestinians in crisis

As the human rights of people in the occupied Palestinian territories continue to be abused, women and children are especially at risk. Gaza faces a dire lack of medical facilities, schools, and homes, as so many have been hit by Israeli airstrikes. ActionAid works in communities near the border with Israel that have been most directly affected by the violence. ActionAid's women-led response is supporting the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities.