'No one has enough to eat' in Gaza, UN chief warns

Secretary General Antonio Guterres faults governments for prioritising weapons over food

Palestinians in Rafah wait to receive food from a charity. Reuters
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More than 500,000 Gazans are grappling with severe food shortages, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday, as he called for unimpeded humanitarian access to the besieged enclave and other places experiencing shortages.

In remarks to the UN Security Council during a meeting on climate, food and safety, Mr Guterres reminded the 15-member panel during a ministerial meeting on the links between food, climate and conflict crises that starving civilians may constitute a war crime.

“In Gaza, no one has enough to eat. Of the 700,000 hungriest people in the world, four in five inhabit that tiny strip of land,” Mr Guterres said.

Mr Guterres added: “Where wars rage, hunger reigns – whether due to displacement of people, destruction of agriculture, damage to infrastructure, or deliberate policies of denial.”

The UN chief said that he was distressed to see governments spending heavily on arms while at the same time shrinking budgets for food security, climate action and broader sustainable development.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, more Gazans are being pushed to the brink of famine, with the territory's entire population in the UN agency's three most severe categories of hunger.

Algeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Youcef Cherfa said Israel's assault on Gaza “left nothing alive and caused a suffocating food crisis and deteriorating environmental situation”, proving Israel's “disregard of the most basic moral principles, its total disregard of international humanitarian frameworks and binding international rules”.

He urged the international community to take action rather than remain passive observers while thousands are killed, injured and displaced.

“Climate and conflict were the main causes of acute food insecurity for almost 174 million people in 2022,” Mr Guterres noted. He added that in some cases, they collide to hit communities with a “double blow”.

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Without action, “the situation will deteriorate”, the UN chief noted.

“Conflicts are multiplying,” he said. “The climate crisis is set to spiral, as emissions continue to rise and acute food insecurity has been increasing year on year.”

He warned of a resurgence of global food inflation as “droughts sap the Panama Canal and violence hits the Red Sea – throwing supply chains into disarray”.

Concern over supply chains were amplified when the Houthi rebels in Yemen began attacking commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, food production is already lower than it would have been without climate change.

And in the not-too-distant future, Simon Stiell, executive secretary UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the world risks huge supply shocks.

“Where harvests fail simultaneously, in major producer countries, if heating continues, food production will decline across many countries,” Mr Stiell told the council.

“In others, little will grow at all.”

As much as 70 per cent of the most climate-vulnerable countries are also among the most politically and economically fragile, according to the UN.

Gripped by hunger, Gaza's children describe daily struggle to find food – video

Gripped by hunger, Gaza's children describe daily struggle to find food

Gripped by hunger, Gaza's children describe daily struggle to find food
Updated: February 13, 2024, 7:44 PM