According to the United Nations World Food Program, 80% of the people of the world threatened with famine — dying because of a severe lack of food or water — are Palestinians living in Gaza.

Al Jazeera reports that “Half a million people in Gaza face starvation, and all 2.3 million people living there are suffering from acute food shortage.” (Feb. 26) 

Before October 7, when Hamas and the resistance coalition it led managed to bust out of the prison walls Israel had wrapped around it, Gaza received around 500 supply truckloads daily. The trucks entered from either an Israeli checkpoint in northern Gaza or a facility in Egypt near Rafah, both under the control of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

Currently, the IOF has limited truckloads to 100 a day with a much more rigorous inspection, rejecting many items, such as toilets, which the Israeli Civil Administration has declared a dual use item. This inspection procedure ignores the fact that a major portion of Hamas’ armaments come from unexploded Israeli ordnance. Frequently, far fewer than 100 truckloads get delivered.

While 1.5 million Palestinians, following dictates from the IOF, have set themselves up in temporary, overcrowded shelters near the Rafah crossing into Egypt, there are still 300,000 to 400,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza, the site of devastating mass bombing and recent skirmishes between Hamas and the IOF.

The security situation in the north is so desperate, with Israeli naval attacks on aid convoys and the IOF’s refusal to grant permits for “humanitarian” operations from the U.N. or NGOs, that UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, suspended operations Feb. 24.

“The desperate behavior of hungry and exhausted people is preventing the safe and regular passage of our trucks,” said Tamara Alrifai, director of external relations UNRWA. She added that she was “very wary of how to explain this so as not to make it sound like we are blaming people or describing these things as criminal acts.” (tinyurl.com/ynnp7hax)

The U.N.’s World Food Program reports that older people in northern Gaza are dying because they don’t get enough nourishment from the weeds and the animal feed ground into the flour used to make ersatz bread.

In southern Gaza, access to nutrition is not the primary problem. Medical personnel say that infants are more prone to diarrhea and other ailments and have difficulty recovering because they don’t get enough nutritious food. About one in five children is suffering from severe malnutrition, which will produce lifelong development issues.

The sharpest problem in southern Gaza is access to sanitation. The lines can be hours long and the facilities themselves are filthy. While UNWRA and the NGOs have toilets, they can’t get permission to bring them in. This is a deliberate attempt to humiliate and denigrate. Women also can’t get the sanitary products they need.

G. Dunkel

G.Dunkel@workers.org

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G. Dunkel

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