“Full-Blown Famine” ravages northern Gaza, U.N. official declares amid prolonged conflict

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Nearly seven months have passed since the onset of the latest conflict in Gaza, and the situation has taken a dire turn. According to Cindy McCain, director of the World Food Program, parts of the Gaza Strip, particularly the northern regions, are now experiencing what she describes as a “full-blown famine.” This crisis, exacerbated by continuous warfare and logistical challenges in aid delivery, is raising alarms across the international community.

The term “full-blown famine” used by McCain in a recent interview underscores the severity of the hunger crisis facing Gaza’s northern territories. This region, already destabilized by an Israeli ground invasion, has become increasingly lawless and difficult for aid agencies to access. Despite not being an official declaration—which involves a complex bureaucratic process—the stark language underscores the urgency of the situation.

McCain’s assessment is based on firsthand observations and data collected by the World Food Program. “There is famine—full-blown famine in the north, and it’s moving its way south,” McCain reported during her appearance on “Meet The Press.”

Delivering aid to Gaza has become a logistical nightmare. The Israeli defense agency COGAT, which oversees Palestinian civilian affairs, contests the famine claims, citing increased efforts to supply food, medical equipment, and other necessities. They report that significant quantities of aid are now entering Gaza, with more than 6,000 trucks this April alone—a 28 percent increase from the previous month.

Despite these efforts, aid groups and local authorities describe the aid flow as inadequate. The Israeli measures, including a rigorous inspection process, are said to significantly slow down the distribution and, in some cases, prevent essential goods from reaching those in dire need.

On the diplomatic front, negotiations for a ceasefire and an exchange of prisoners have resumed in Cairo, involving representatives from Hamas, Israel, Egypt, Qatar, and the United States. These talks are crucial, as any agreement could facilitate better aid distribution and potentially ease the humanitarian crisis.

Simultaneously, international figures like U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and U.N. officials have expressed frustration with the political complexities hindering effective aid distribution and ceasefire negotiations. “The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” Blinken stated during a briefing at the McCain Institute.

The severe restrictions on aid and the resultant humanitarian crisis have prompted discussions about potential violations of international law. The U.N. human rights chief has suggested that Israel’s policies could constitute war crimes, a sentiment echoed by concerns that the International Criminal Court may consider charges against Israeli officials for actions taken during the conflict.

The human toll of this crisis is concrete and devastating. Reports from local health authorities in Gaza indicate that dozens of children, particularly those under a year old, have succumbed to malnutrition and related diseases since the conflict escalated. Families in northern Gaza, like that of 36-year-old Fatma Edaama from Jabaliya, face daily hardships with limited access to basic necessities such as meat and fresh produce, although there has been a slight improvement in the availability and cost of some food items recently.

“The situation on the ground is heartbreaking,” McCain added in her interview.

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