Home News UN aid official says parts of Gaza are in ‘full-blown famine’

UN aid official says parts of Gaza are in ‘full-blown famine’

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After nearly seven months of war, parts of the Gaza Strip are experiencing a “total famine” that is spreading across the territory, making it extremely difficult to deliver aid, the leader of the World Food Program said.

“There’s famine in the North — full-scale famine, and it’s spreading southward,” Cindy McCain, the program’s director, said in excerpts released late Friday night. Interviewed on “Meet the Press”“.

Ms. McCain is the second high-profile American to lead a U.S. government or U.N. aid effort to say there is famine in northern Gaza, although her remarks did not amount to a formal statement. Complex bureaucratic procedures.

She did not explain why famine was not officially declared. But she said her assessment was “based on what we see and what we experience on the ground.”

The hunger crisis is most acute in the northern Gaza Strip, a largely lawless, gang-infested area with little or no control by Israeli forces. More aid has flowed into the affected areas in recent weeks, as Israel faces growing global pressure to improve the dire situation there.

On the diplomatic front, talks resumed in Cairo on Saturday aimed at reaching a ceasefire and a deal to release Israeli and Palestinian hostages. The Palestinian armed group said a delegation of Hamas leaders was heading to the Egyptian capital.

Israel and the negotiating mediators – Egypt, Qatar and the United States – have been awaiting a response from Hamas over the past few days to the latest ceasefire proposal, with Hamas saying it was willing to discuss a proposal approved by Israel. On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said U.S. officials were awaiting “a ‘yes’ answer” from Hamas on a ceasefire and hostage release.

“The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” Blinken said at the McCain Institute in Arizona. “So we’ll see what they do.”

Husam Badran, a senior Hamas official, said in a text message that the group’s representatives came to Cairo “with great positivity” about the proposed agreement. “If there is no deal, it will be because of Netanyahu alone,” he said, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has vowed for weeks that Israeli forces would invade Rafah, and many remaining Hamas troops are believed to be fighting alongside some of its leaders. The plan has sparked widespread criticism, including from the Biden administration, amid concerns about the safety of the more than one million displaced Gazans who have taken refuge there.

As of Saturday, Israel had not sent a delegation to Cairo for indirect talks with Hamas officials, as Israeli officials had done in previous rounds of talks, two Israeli officials said on condition of anonymity.

An Israeli official said an immediate truce was unlikely even if Hamas announced its acceptance of the proposed deal in Cairo. The official added that Hamas’s approval would be followed by intensive negotiations to finalize the details of the ceasefire, and that such negotiations could be protracted and difficult.

Ms. McCain said the ceasefire would help ease the situation in Gaza.

“It was horrific,” she said on “Meet the Press.” “It’s ugly to see and it’s ugly to hear. I very much hope that we can have a ceasefire and start feeding these people at a faster pace, especially in the north.”

The first U.S. official to say there was famine in Gaza during the conflict was U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power. Congressional testimony last month.

Ms. McCain, the widow of Senator John McCain, was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as the United States ambassador to the United Nations food and agriculture agency and became head of the United Nations agency World Food Program last year.

UN agency officially declares famine Comprehensive stage classification of food securityand the government of the country where the famine occurred. It’s unclear what the local government does There may be the ability to do that in Gaza.declare that they are Based on hunger, malnutrition and mortality measured over a short period of time,rarely seen. But for aid groups, the famine prioritizes one crisis over other disasters and helps them raise funds to respond.

Gaza has been plagued by what experts call “ Serious man-made hunger crisis. Israeli bombing and restrictions on the territory have made the delivery of aid very difficult. The amount of aid entering Gaza has increased recently, but aid groups say it is far from enough.

During the first three weeks of the war, Israel maintained the so-called ” “Total siege” Gaza Defense Minister Yov Galante said “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel” would be allowed into the territory.The Israeli military also Destroy the Gaza portRestricted fishing and bombed many farms.

Israel eventually eased the blockade but instituted strict inspection procedures, saying it was necessary to ensure weapons and other supplies did not fall into the hands of Hamas.Aid groups and foreign diplomats say the inspections create bottleneckand accused Israel of arbitrary refuse aidincluding water filters, solar lights and medical kits containing scissors, for bogus reasons.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a statement Last month, Israel’s policy on aid to Gaza may constitute a war crime.

The use of starvation of civilians as a weapon is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime. Rome StatuteInternational Criminal Court (ICC) Treaty

Israeli and foreign officials told New York Times last week They fear the International Criminal Court is preparing to issue arrest warrants for senior Israeli officials, including possibly charging them with blocking aid to civilians in Gaza. (They also said they believed courts were considering issuing arrest warrants for Hamas leaders, which could be issued at the same time.)

Israel has previously strongly denied imposing restrictions on aid, accusing the United Nations of failing to adequately distribute aid and accusing Hamas of looting supplies. U.S. and U.N. officials said there was no evidence of this beyond a shipment by Hamas. seized earlier this week and is currently recovering.

Regardless of how the problem is resolved, there is no doubt that the lives of many Gazans, especially children, remain under threat suffering from disease This makes them particularly vulnerable. As of April 17, At least 28 children According to local health authorities, children under the age of 12 have died in Gaza hospitals due to malnutrition or related causes, including 12 infants less than one month old. Officials believe there are many more deaths outside hospitals that have not been recorded.

There are already some Improve aid flows In recent weeks, Israel has reopened the Erez crossing, allowing some aid to flow directly into northern Gaza.

Fatma Edaama, a 36-year-old resident of Jabaliya in northern Gaza, said conditions in her community remained difficult. Many items, such as meat, are out of stock or sold at exorbitant prices, she said.

But flour, canned goods and other items have begun to move more freely, Ms. Edama said, and their costs have fallen sharply. “Before there was nothing, people would grind up animal feed,” she said. “Now, we have food.”

Still, foreign officials and aid agencies say more needs to be done.

“This is real and important progress, but more needs to be done,” Mr. Blinken told reporters this week After visiting an aid warehouse in Jordan.

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