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21 Dec, 2023 19:48

‘Lethal combination’ ravaging Gaza – WHO

The Palestinian enclave is on the brink of famine, the organization has warned
‘Lethal combination’ ravaging Gaza – WHO

Almost everybody in Gaza is facing “crisis levels” of hunger, and rates of disease among children have skyrocketed, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. Amid the declining humanitarian situation, both Hamas and Israel have vowed to keep fighting. 

Around 93% of Gaza’s 2.28 million people are facing “crisis” or worse levels of hunger, the WHO stated in a post to X (formerly Twitter). Citing a joint report compiled by the UN and other international bodies, the WHO warned that 17% of the strip’s residents face “catastrophic” levels of food insecurity, defined by the report as imminent danger of starvation and death. 

Should Israel’s military operation in Gaza and blockade of the strip continue, the report predicts famine conditions by the end of February.

“On recent missions to north Gaza, WHO staff say that every single person they spoke to in Gaza is hungry,” the organization said. “Wherever they went, including hospitals and emergency wards, people asked them for food."

Other humanitarian organizations working in the Palestinian enclave have recorded similar conditions, with United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini telling reporters last week that Gaza is “not really a habitable place any more.”

Malnutrition and the destruction of infrastructure has caused a proliferation of disease, the WHO stated on Thursday. Over 100,000 cases of diarrhea and 150 000 cases of upper respiratory infections have been recorded since mid-October, the organization said, noting that the diarrhea cases among children under five years old are now 25 times more common than before the conflict began.

“The people of Gaza, who have already suffered enough, now face death from starvation and diseases that could be easily treated with a functioning health system,” the WHO said. “This must stop. Food and other aid must flow in far greater amounts. WHO reiterates its call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

Israel’s campaign in Gaza began after Hamas militants launched a surprise attack on the Jewish state on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 as hostages. Israeli jets immediately began bombing Gaza, and ground forces entered the strip a month later. Most of Gaza City in the north and parts of Khan Younis in the south are now under Israeli control.

At least 20,000 people have died in Gaza since October 7, the enclave’s health ministry announced on Thursday. At least 8,000 children and 6,200 women are among those killed, the ministry added.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas political bureau, arrived in Cairo this week for truce talks, although the militant leader reportedly rejected an Israeli offer to pause fighting in exchange for the release of around 40 captives. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will “not stop the war until we achieve all of its goals: completing the elimination of Hamas and releasing all of our hostages.” Netanyahu also called on the Palestinian militants to “surrender or die.”