Gaza: hunger is “worse than the bombings”

Gaza: hunger is “worse than the bombings”

In the besieged Palestinian enclave, food is insufficient, rotten and often non-existent, leaving residents weakened and disoriented.

By Lubna Masarwa and Rayhan Uddin,

Ali goes out every day in northern Gaza, amid incessant Israeli bombs and artillery fire, in search of food for his family. “My family, the children, everyone is waiting for me to come home and say ‘there’s food’ or ‘I brought vegetables’,” the Palestinian told Middle East Eye. But most of the time, he comes back empty-handed and disappointed.

“We stopped asking ourselves, ‘When will the war be over?’ ” and we started wondering “When will the food arrive?” » »

Ali and all Gazans MEE spoke to about the worsening hunger crisis, caused by the ongoing Israeli siege blocking the delivery of food and basic medical supplies, preferred not to use their real names.

Rania, in Gaza City, also goes to the market every day in search of food. What she finds is either unaffordable or extremely limited. “There are no vegetables, fruits or milk in the markets. Nothing that has any nutritional value,” she tells MEE.

Rania explains that she received a food basket from the World Food Program (WFP) over a month ago, containing halva, beans, hummus, peas and cold meats. She still clings to these products. “I ration them, because if I run out, I won’t have anything to eat,” she says. “I feel dizzy and weak. My face is pale and I have lost a lot of weight. »

Rania and Ali’s experiences are similar to those of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the north.

For more than eight months, the Israeli military has imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip, severely restricting the flow of food and medical supplies essential to the population’s survival. The siege is even stricter in the northern Gaza Strip, an area that Israel attempted to empty of its more than one million residents at the start of the war in October.

In addition to incessant bombings and deliberate targeting of hospitals, and as part of a policy that amounts to collective punishment of civilians, the Israeli army uses starvation of the population as a weapon of war, according to independent investigators. United Nations.

The hunger crisis reached its peak in March: dozens of children died of malnutrition and residents were forced to eat grass, as Israeli forces repeatedly killed people seeking help.

Under growing international pressure, following the deaths of several foreign aid workers by Israeli forces and the release of a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine, Israel has “slightly” improved access to food in some areas.

However, residents say Israeli authorities are once again severely restricting deliveries of vital food supplies, restoring the extreme conditions of March that led to the deaths of at least four children from malnutrition last week.

Imminent famine

The United Nations’ hunger monitoring system, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), released a new report on Tuesday indicating that a “high risk of famine persists across the Gaza Strip.” .

The report says that more than 20% of the Palestinian enclave’s population, more than 495,000 people, now face “catastrophic levels of acute food insecurity” involving “extreme lack of food, famine and l ‘exhaustion’.

Almost everyone else in the Gaza Strip faces “high levels of acute food insecurity” or worse.

The IPC found that while aid deliveries to the northern Gaza Strip increased in March and April, and also flowed south, the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks .

Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, including the capture of the Rafah crossing, has blocked the few access routes to the enclave for aid trucks. The report says that more than half of Gaza households report that they often have no food at home, and more than 20 percent go days and nights without eating.

“Humanitarian space in the Gaza Strip continues to shrink and the capacity to safely deliver aid to populations is dwindling,” the report said. “The recent trajectory is negative and very unstable. »

Hunger is worse than bombing

For Ali, there are no words to describe the hunger Gaza residents endure. “It is worse than all the bombings, the noise and the horror that we are experiencing, and it is even worse than the famine that we experienced the first time,” he said, referring to the crises of famine in March.

Ali explains that at the start of the war, when residents of northern Gaza were forcibly expelled by Israeli authorities to the south, those who remained found themselves in near-starvation conditions due to a blockade total food and resources.

“But some people had stored food or legumes before. Additionally, at the time, the atmosphere and temperature allowed for the growth of herbs or plants that we used as alternatives to food. »

Today, with temperatures rising in Gaza, it is increasingly difficult to store food. Some canned goods that arrived in the northern Gaza Strip via aid trucks are inedible. Exposure to the sun during the journey caused much of the stock to deteriorate before it reached the starving Palestinians.

“We have witnessed more than one case of poisoning in Gaza City due to expired canned goods,” says Ali. According to the Gaza government’s media office, numerous cases of food poisoning due to consumption of expired canned goods have been reported in recent days, particularly among children.

Many Palestinians in Gaza are now trying to plant food in their homes to escape hunger. They try to plant things that can grow quickly, like zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes. But plants need water, a commodity that is also sorely lacking in Gaza.

Before Israel’s war on Gaza began on October 7, 96 percent of the enclave’s water was already unfit for human consumption due to 17 years of Israeli blockade.

Today the situation is worse, with water, sanitation and hygiene systems completely out of order, according to a United Nations report released last week on the environmental impact of the war. ‘Israel.

“We don’t know how much longer we can endure this,” Ali says.

“Every day we are falling apart. Every day is worse than the last.”

Translation: JB for the Palestine Media Agency

Source: Middle East Eye