Global Agriculture

FAO Sounds Alarm Over High Risk of Famine Across the Whole Gaza Strip Amidst Humanitarian Access Constraints

26 June 2024, Rome: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) raises alarm over high risk of famine across the whole Gaza Strip, as long as conflict continues, and sustained and at-scale humanitarian access is restricted, according to a new report published by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) global initiative.

“We have observed high risk of famine over the last eight months due to relentless hostilities characterized by bombardment and ground operations as well as limited access to those in need of urgent humanitarian aid which have had severe impacts on the entire population of Gaza”, said FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero while commenting on the IPC’s latest findings at a press briefing in New York. “The report clearly shows that once the flow of and access to food and water in the Northern Gaza improved, the risk of famine has significantly decreased, therefore the solution is clear.”

However, he emphasized that despite some improvements in the Northern parts during the period of analysis, the situation still remains very fragile, unpredictable, and critical, and any significant change may lead to a rapid deterioration into famine in Gaza. The Chief Economist added that in Northern Gaza especially the ground operations continue with high intensity triggering forced displacement thus further exacerbating the social and food security situation.

With almost the entire population (96 percent) facing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 or above), any deterioration may push more people into catastrophic levels of hunger, for example, if the level of permits and access of trucks with humanitarian aid to Gaza declines and does not increase substantially, Torero warned.

The new data reveals that while the increased amount of food deliveries and nutrition services provided to the northern governorates have temporarily alleviated hunger conditions, the situation in the southern governorates deteriorated following renewed hostilities in early May.

According to the new IPC report, around 495,000 people or 22 percent of the population are now experiencing catastrophic food insecurity (IPC Phase 5, Catastrophe) while almost entire population – 2.15 million people or 96 percent – is facing Crisis levels of acute food insecurity or higher (IPC Phase 3+).

More than half of cropland is damaged

FAO’s recent satellite data analysis reveals a continuous increase in damaged agricultural land, with over half the land damaged across the Gaza Strip or more than 57 percent as of May 2024. Of these damaged lands, approximately 61 percent are orchards, 19 percent are vegetables and 20 percent are cereals.

This level of agricultural land damage is highly concerning, with a 33 percent increase in damaged land since January 2024.

The satellite images indicate that heavy vehicle tracks, razing, shelling and other conflict-related pressures have also significantly damaged agricultural infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The analysis reveals damages to greenhouses of almost 33 percent, to wells of more than 46 percent, to solar panels of almost 65 percent, and over 2 300 agricultural infrastructures.

Local food production at risk

Agriculture in the Gaza Strip represents over 40 percent of the surface area and contributes to approximately 20-30 percent of daily consumption. The damage to the agricultural sector due to the hostilities is extensive, bringing crucial local production of fresh and nutritious food to a near total halt, decreasing the population’s access to essential food items required for a healthy diet. The livelihoods of vulnerable farmers, herders and fishers have been significantly impacted, posing serious problems for future recovery.

Households with high dependency on agriculture have experienced up to 72 percent in income losses.

The Port of Gaza City has been severely damaged, with most fishing boats destroyed. Animal inventories are seeing a sharp decline. A large share of meat and dairy producing livestock in Gaza have been slaughtered, consumed or damaged and lost due to conflict.

FAO’s emergency agricultural support

FAO, like other UN and humanitarian actors, has experienced logistical challenges, particularly obtaining entry permits, to deliver agricultural aid materials into Gaza. Despite humanitarian access issues, the Organization is completing the distribution of 500 tons of fodder. As of 8 May, about 2 900 beneficiaries have been reached over two successive distributions.

FAO is scaling up efforts to prepare essential food production inputs for transportation to Gaza by mobilizing advanced procurement arrangements once access is granted. These include procuring fodder concentrate, greenhouse plastic sheets, plastic water tanks, plastic sheets for, vaccines, energy blocks, plastic sheds, animal shelters, and veterinary kits.

The new UN flash appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) was announced on 17 April, extending until December 2024. In total, FAO is appealing for a total of around $40 million, with $29 million allocated for Gaza and $11 million for the West Bank. This funding will support 70 660 individuals with emergency agricultural support, including animal fodder and animal health inputs distributions; restocking lost livestock; and providing time-critical inputs to farmers.

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