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Israel-Hamas war: Aid trucks being looted in Gaza as population nears famine

All 2.3 million people in Gaza are facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, and a complete breakdown of civil order in the north. One in in six children under the age of two in northern Gaza are suffering from "acute malnutrition and wasting", according to UN.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: February 28, 2024 17:20 IST
Israel Hamas war, gaza, aid trucks looted
Image Source : AP (FILE) Palestinians in Gaza are facing crisis levels of food insecurity.

Gaza: Amid a perilous situation in the Gaza Strip caused by the Israel-Hamas war, people are resorting to firing and looting aid trucks that have complicated humanitarian deliveries in the war-torn territory. This comes at a time when a quarter of Gaza's population, approximately 576,000 people, is very close to famine and the entire population desperately needs essential supplies.

The officials from the UN humanitarian office and the UN’s food and agriculture organisations described a grim picture of all 2.3 million people in Gaza facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, and civil order breaking down, especially in the north where food and other humanitarian supplies are scarce. Nearly 30,000 people have been killed as a result of Israel's offensive beginning from October 7, when Hamas invaded and killed 1,200 civilians in Israel.

UN humanitarian coordinator Ramesh Ramasingham told the UN Security Council that "there is every possibility for further deterioration", adding that one in six children under the age of two in northern Gaza are suffering from "acute malnutrition and wasting", causing a total breakdown of civil order.

'Worst level of child malnutrition in the world'

Carl Skau, deputy executive director of the World Food Program, said that is "the worst level of child malnutrition anywhere in the world" and a famine is imminent in the northern part of Gaza, which was the initial target of Israel’s military offensive following Hamas’ surprise attack. Skau said WFP resumed deliveries to northern Gaza for the first time in weeks on February 18 and hoped to send 10 trucks for seven days to address immediate food needs.

However, the WFP convoys faced delays at checkpoints in the next couple of days due to gunfire, other kinds of violence and looting of food trucks. "At their destination, they were overwhelmed by desperately hungry people," he said, adding that the "breakdown in civil order, driven by sheer desperation, is preventing the safe distribution of aid".

Maurizio Martina, the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) deputy director general, described the horrific state of farmland, greenhouses, bakeries and irrigation systems that are essential to produce, process and distribute food. Since October 9, the Israeli government's "reinforced blockade has included stopping or restricting food, electricity and fuel supplies, as well as commercial goods, he said.

According to Martina, severe restrictions on fuel shipments are crippling water supplies and the functioning of desalination plants, with the water supply at only 7 per cent of pre-October levels. Fuel shortages have also crippled the production and delivery of food and electricity, and seriously hampered the ability of bakeries to produce bread, he said.

Farms destroyed, agricultural production paralysed

The FAO official further said a high number of animal shelters and sheep and dairy farms destroyed, over one-quarter of water wells destroyed, and 339 hectares of greenhouses destroyed. Many livestock owners report substantial losses, all poultry have likely been slaughtered, and as many as 65 per cent of calves and 70 per cent of beef cattle are assumed to have died.

Israel’s deputy UN ambassador Brett Miller told the council that while fighting Hamas it is doing “all it can to care for civilians,” and is working constantly to ensure the entry of humanitarian aid from numerous countries and UN agencies. Israel has facilitated the delivery of 254,000 tons of humanitarian aid including 165,000 tons of food since October 7, he said.

He also accused the UN of refusing to deliver aid to northern Gaza, and some UN officials of trying to shift the blame to Israel. In recent days, Miller said, 508 trucks have been waiting to cross into Gaza with Israeli approval. “So where is the UN and its aid agencies? How can it be that Israel is libelously held responsible for a situation that is clearly the UN’s fault?” he asked.

(with AP inputs)

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