HomePoliticsUS aid experts warn that Gaza is likely already experiencing famine

US aid experts warn that Gaza is likely already experiencing famine

A group of U.S. government humanitarian experts privately warned fellow officials on Tuesday that the spread of hunger and malnutrition in Gaza amid the U.S.-backed Israeli offensive is “unprecedented in modern history,” that famine is likely already occurring in parts of the Gaza Strip and the Gaza Strip. The pace of hunger-related deaths will “accelerate in the coming weeks.”

The striking assessment was shared in a cable prepared by U.S. Agency for International Development officials and sent to the White House National Security Council, State Department offices and diplomatic posts abroad. It reflects outside aid agencies’ interpretation of the desperate situation in Gaza and shows that the Biden administration is aware of the risk that the death toll there will rise dramatically if it continues to support the Israeli operation and resist calls for a permanent end of the war.

“An immediate and substantial flow of food, health, nutrition and… [sanitation] assistance; expanded humanitarian access; and safe, unhindered passage for humanitarian workers is critical to addressing famine in Gaza,” the officials wrote. “While hostilities continue, humanitarian workers will face significant challenges in providing life-saving assistance and specialized services to those in need in Gaza.”

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The revelation comes amid global outcry over Israel’s attack on aid workers linked to the respected nonprofit World Central Kitchen. The strike prompted several aid groups to end or scale down their activities in the besieged Palestinian region. Tuesday’s cable noted that “ongoing hostilities… resulted in the deaths of 196 humanitarian workers between October 7, 2023 and March 25, 2024,” without assigning responsibility for the killings.

The dire internal analysis represents a shift from USAID’s last public commentary on the issue, on March 18, which called famine “imminent.”

“Given that the causes of malnutrition… did not improve significantly between February and March, even in the best-case scenario the threshold to support a famine decision has probably already been exceeded,” the cable says. Later, reference is made to “North Gaza, where famine is most severe and widespread.”

In an earlier parenthetical comment, the document specifies: “’Famine’ with a capital ‘F’ is a scientific classification based on standards, evidence and technical consensus among experts.”

Spokespeople for USAID did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Without criticizing US ally Israel, the cable specifies ways in which its policies are worsening the humanitarian crisis. In one section, the document says that “conduct violations at checkpoints and unclear coordination have also resulted in the arrest of drivers and the targeting of emergency trucks with gunfire and strikes.”

Elsewhere, the report says that health, sanitation and hygiene items are “among the most rejected goods for import into Gaza” at border crossings where Israel inspects incoming cargo and denies entry to materials it deems potentially feasible to use for military purposes to use.

The finding could have legal implications: Lawmakers and human rights groups have argued in recent weeks that Israel’s obstruction of U.S. humanitarian aid makes it illegal for Washington to continue military aid to the country.

In addition, “a growing visa backlog continues to limit the ability of humanitarian organizations to attract staff and personnel qualified to address famine and provide essential nutritional treatment in Gaza,” the cable said. At another point, it is noted that more than 1,000 containers of flour purchased by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East – which could feed 1.5 million people for five months – were still stuck in Israeli port of Ashdod, 40 kilometers away. from Gaza, since a few weeks before.

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And the document makes clear that President Joe Biden’s recently unveiled bids to help starving Gazans are insufficient. It notes that airborne landings and the US plan for a floating pier will “supplement but not replace land routes” – which Israel remains reluctant to open – and are “insufficient to address the famine on the scale required.”

USAID officials paint a bleak picture of the prospects for Palestinians trapped in Gaza amid a siege by Israel and fellow US ally Egypt.

They cite outside analysts who predict that four children under the age of five will die every day between mid-March and the end of May “due to hunger, malnutrition and disease,” and write in their closing commentary that “many of the coping strategies used by people in Gaza will have long-term impacts on the nutritional status and future livelihoods of those who survive the crisis.”


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