World Bank report finds imminent risk of catastrophic famine in Gaza Strip | Israel-Gaza war

Half the population of the Gaza Strip is at imminent risk of famine as food shortages approach catastrophic levels for more than a million people, the World Bank has warned.

Almost six months after the war between Israel and Hamas began, the Washington-based Bank said urgent action was needed to prevent widespread deaths from starvation within the next two months.

The new data from the Bank came as the UN secretary general, António Guterres, called on Israel to give immediate and unconditional access to Gaza for aid via land.

“I call on the Israeli authorities to ensure complete and unfettered access for humanitarian routes throughout Gaza,” he said before a meeting with the European Commission’s president in Brussels.

The Bank’s regular update found that of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million, there were 1.1 million in the highest risk category – people in catastrophe – which meant risk of acute malnutrition or death. A further 854,000 (38%) were in the next category down – people in emergency – where immediate action was needed to save lives. The remaining 12% were in the third category: people in crisis. Nobody in Gaza was placed in the bottom two categories – people stressed or people in food security.

“Household surveys reveal alarming trends, with virtually all households skipping meals daily and a significant portion of children under two suffering from acute malnutrition,” the report said.

The World Bank said the projected famine – which could happen anytime between now and late May – was being exacerbated by a number of factors including relentless hostilities, widespread damage to infrastructure, and restricted humanitarian access, which hindered the delivery of essential supplies and services.

Citing the sheer number of people facing catastrophic hunger, Guterres said leaders needed to “act now before it was too late”. He also renewed calls for Hamas to release all the Israeli hostages unconditionally.

He will also address EU leaders at a summit on Thursday where they will be asked to adopt conclusions calling for Israel to avert famine. In hardened language, the latest draft declaration now says “full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to Gaza must be given “to provide the civilian population with life saving assistance and basic services at scale”.

Médecins Sans Frontières, which was given access two days ago to Rafah to set up a makeshift care centre, said it was seeing diarrhoea due to the poor sanitation and respiratory infections in children caused by sleeping in tents during winter.

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