Fear of famine worsens in Gaza after World Food Programme aid pause

Jabalia resident Haitham Hamoda says his children are 'crying for real food'

The World Food Programme estimates that one in six children under the age of two in northern Gaza are "acutely malnourished". Reuters
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Starving Gazans, some of whom have resorted to feeding their children herbs, are even more desperate for supplies after the World Food Programme paused aid deliveries to northern Gaza.

World Food Programme (WFP) executive director Cindy McCain said the decision was an “impossible choice," and warned that famine was looming.

The initial plan was to send 10 lorries of food every day for a week, the WFP said in a statement. But the first convoy, which was headed towards Gaza city on Sunday, had to “fend off” starving Gazans who attempted to climb aboard the lorries. A lorry then came under fire in Gaza city.

“Our team was able to distribute a small quantity of food along the way,” the statement said.

A second convoy sent on Monday “faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, the WFP said. Lorries were looted between Khan Younis in the south and Deir Al Balah in central Gaza, it said.

The World Food Programme estimates that one in six children under the age of two in northern Gaza are “acutely malnourished”.

“In these past two days our teams witnessed unprecedented levels of desperation,” it said.

Militant group Hamas criticised the decision to halt deliveries, describing it as a “death sentence” for the people in the north of the enclave.

In northern Gaza's Jabalia refugee camp, options are very limited. People like Haitham Hamoda are having to rely on a herb, called malva, growing there to feed their children.

“This is what is remaining to eat. The flour and canned foods have run out. I just pulled this malva out of the ground. But my children are crying. They want real food,” he told The National.

Mr Hamoda has refused to leave Jabalia and head south to Rafah, where 1.4 million people are displaced, because his parents are old and unable to move.

“I can't leave them behind,” he said.

He lamented his circumstances and questioned why his children are having to suffer the consequences of the war and his decision to stay with his parents.

In Beit Lahya, north of Jabalia, Jabeer Abu Halima owns a farm but still cannot feed his family.

He said the Israeli army controls the area and would shoot at him if he tried to go there. “I refuse to go to the south because I don't want to leave my farm. But now I'm at risk of experiencing famine.”

Since the war broke out on October 7, killing more than 29,300 Palestinians, Mr Abu Halima said he's lost $25,000 because he could not harvest his crops.

Salah Abdel Atee, director of the International Commission to Support Palestinian Rights, said citizens of Gaza are being “held responsible” for the chaos surrounding the delivery of WFP aid but the real issue was the prevention of enough aid from entering the Strip in the first place.

“The occupation's ongoing obstruction of aid entry and regular flow of it to all parts of Gaza is exacerbating the famine and state of chaos among people,” he said.

Some people have been killed while waiting for aid lorries to arrive, he said, accusing Israeli forces of firing at aid convoys and recipients.

Updated: February 22, 2024, 6:38 AM