The UN says more than 1 in 4 people in Gaza are starving because of war

Dec 21, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 9:48 pm

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — More than half a million people in Gaza — a quarter of the population — are starving, according to a report Thursday by the United Nations and other agencies, highlighting the humanitarian crisis caused by Israel’s bombardment and siege on the territory in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

The extent of the population’s hunger eclipsed even the near-famines in Afghanistan and Yemen of recent years, according to figures in the report. The report warned that the risk of famine is “increasing each day,” blaming the hunger on insufficient aid entering Gaza.

“It doesn’t get any worse,’’ said Arif Husain, chief economist for the U.N.’s World Food Program. “I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza. And at this speed.”

Israel says it is in the final stages of clearing out Hamas militants from northern Gaza, but that months of fighting lie ahead in the south.

The war sparked by Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 rampage and hostage-taking in Israel has killed nearly 20,000 Palestinians. Some 1.9 million Gaza residents — more than 80% of the population — have been driven from their homes, and many of them are crammed into U.N. shelters.

The war has also pushed Gaza’s health sector into collapse. Only nine of its 36 health facilities are still partially functioning, all located in the south, according to the World Health Organization. On Thursday, WHO relief workers reported “unbearable” scenes in two hospitals they visited in northern Gaza: Bedridden patients with untreated wounds crying out for water, the few remaining doctors and nurses having no supplies, and bodies being lined up in the courtyard.

Bombardment and fighting continued Thursday, and internet and communications that had been knocked out for several days gradually began to return across the territory.

U.N. Security Council members again delayed a vote on a now-watered down Arab-sponsored resolution for a halt in combat to allow for increased aid deliveries. A vote, initially set for Monday, has been delayed each day since then. The United States now supports the resolution, but other council members said that because of the significant changes, they needed to consult their capitals before a vote, which is now expected on Friday.

Other countries support a stronger text in the resolution that would include the now-eliminated call for the urgent suspension of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Instead, the wording now calls “for urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” The steps are not defined, but diplomats said, if adopted, this would mark the council’s first reference to a cessation of hostilities.

Thursday’s report from the U.N. on the hunger in Gaza underscored the failure of weeks of U.S. efforts to ensure greater aid reaches Palestinians.

At the start of the war, Israel stopped all deliveries of food, water, medicine and fuel into the territory. After U.S. pressure, it allowed a trickle of aid in through Egypt. But U.N. agencies say only 10% of Gaza’s food needs has been entering for weeks.

This week, Israel began allowing aid to enter Gaza through its Kerem Shalom crossing, which boosted the number of trucks entering from around 100 a day to around 190 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. But an Israeli strike Thursday morning hit the Palestinian side of the crossing, forcing the U.N. to stop its pickups of aid there, according to Juliette Touma, spokesperson of UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

At least four staff members at the crossing were killed, a nearby hospital reported. The Israeli military said it struck militants in the area.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said Israel has been working to increase its inspection of aid trucks to 300 or 400 a day, and blamed the U.N. for failures in delivery. The amount of aid could triple “if the U.N., instead of complaining all day, would do its job,” he said, without elaborating on what more the U.N. should be doing.

Egypt’s Rafah crossing has limited capacity for trucks to cross. U.N. officials say delivery of aid within much of Gaza has become difficult or impossible because of fighting, and more than 130 U.N. personnel have been killed.

The report released Thursday by 23 U.N. and nongovernmental agencies found that the entire population in Gaza is in food crisis, with 576,600 at catastrophic or starvation levels. “It is a situation where pretty much everybody in Gaza is hungry,” Husain, the World Food Program economist, said.

“People are very, very close to large outbreaks of disease because their immune systems have become so weak because they don’t have enough nourishment,” he said.

Hundreds of people lined up Thursday at a soup kitchen in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, waving cups and pots as they waited for soup to be served from huge vats hanging over wood fires. Rafah, by the Egypt border, is one of the few places that receives regular aid deliveries.

Aya Barbakh, who’s been displaced by the war, said she comes every day for food.

“Let us be in comfort like other people. We see people dying every day, and we want to die like them. We have been insulted and humiliated,” she said.

Mahmoud al-Qishawi, with the American charity Pious Projects that runs the kitchen, said there’s no fuel to cook with, so they have to search around the neighborhood for wood to burn. “There’s a huge number of families and we don’t have food that is enough for them.”

Israel has vowed to continue the offensive until it destroys Hamas’ military capabilities and returns scores of hostages captured by Palestinian militants during their Oct. 7 rampage. Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people that day, mostly civilians, and captured around 240 others.

Hamas fired a barrage of rockets at central Israel Thursday, showing its military capabilities remain formidable. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The United States has continued to support Israel’s campaign while also urging greater efforts to protect civilians. The U.S. wants Israel to shift to more targeted operations aimed at Hamas leaders and the group’s tunnel network.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Tuesday the death toll since the start of the war had risen to more than 19,600. It does not distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths.

On Wednesday, the WHO delivered supplies to Ahli and Shifa hospitals in northern Gaza, where Israeli troops have demolished vast swaths of the city while fighting Hamas militants.

Israeli forces raided a series of health facilities in the north in recent weeks, detaining men for interrogation and expelling others. On Thursday, troops stormed the Palestinian Red Crescent’s ambulance center in the Jabaliya refugee camp, taking away paramedics and ambulance crews, the group said.

In some health facilities, patients who are unable to be moved remain, along with a skeleton staff who can do little beyond first aid, according to U.N. and health officials.

Ahli Hospital is “a place where people are waiting to die,” said Sean Casey, a member of the WHO team that visited the two hospitals Wednesday. Five remaining doctors and five nurses along with around 80 patients remain in Ahli, he said.

All of the hospital buildings are damaged except two, where patients are now kept: the orthopedics ward and a church on the grounds, he said, where “patients were crying out in pain, but were also crying out for us to give them water.”

Israel’s military says 137 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive. Israel says it has killed some 7,000 militants, without providing evidence. It blames the high number civilian deaths in Gaza on Hamas, saying it uses them as human shields when it fights in residential areas.


Jeffery reported from Cairo, Barry from Milan, Italy. Associated Press writers Lee Keath in Cairo, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.


Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

United States News

Associated Press

Three former Department of Education employees charged with defrauding Arizona voucher program

Three former Arizona Department of Education employees were indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in what prosecutors say was a scheme to defraud more than $600,000 from an education voucher program that has drawn criticism for its skyrocketing costs and lax regulation by the state. Prosecutors said Thursday that the three employees approved applications […]

19 minutes ago

Associated Press

EPA to delay rules for some power plants until after November election

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday it is delaying planned rules to curb emissions from existing natural gas plants that release harmful air pollutants and contribute to global warming. The agency said it is still on track to finalize rules for coal-fired power plants and new gas plants that have not come […]

40 minutes ago

Associated Press

Judge holds veteran journalist Catherine Herridge in civil contempt for refusing to divulge source

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge held veteran investigative reporter Catherine Herridge in civil contempt on Thursday for refusing to divulge her source for a series of stories during her time at Fox News about a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but never charged. U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington […]

52 minutes ago

President Joe Biden, second from the right, looks over the southern border, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024...

Associated Press

On the Rio Grande, 300 miles apart, Biden and Trump try to use immigration to election advantage

Three hundred miles apart, President Joe Biden and likely Republican challenger Donald Trump walked along the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas Thursday.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Maryland State House locked down, armed officers seen responding

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland State House was locked down for an undisclosed security threat late Thursday afternoon. Reporters with officers on the ground floor of the building were told to lock their doors shortly after 5 p.m. by an aide to Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones. About 30 minutes later, police escorted […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Indiana Legislature approves bill adding additional verification steps to voter registration

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers passed legislation Thursday that expands the power of the state to verify voters’ addresses and adds an additional residency requirement for first-time voters. The bill’s Republican sponsor state Sen. Mike Gaskill called it a “commonsense bill” that adds protections against fraud, but voting advocates have blasted the changes as new […]

2 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

The UN says more than 1 in 4 people in Gaza are starving because of war