Risk of ‘pockets of famine’ in Gaza, World Food Programme says

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

GENEVA (Reuters) -The World Food Programme said on Tuesday that very little food aid had made it beyond southern Gaza since the start of the conflict with Israel, and pockets of the Palestinian enclave remained at risk of famine.

Israel’s offensive, launched in the wake of a deadly rampage by Hamas militants on Oct. 7, has displaced most of Gaza’s 2.3 million population and caused acute shortages of food, water and medical supplies.

Over 25,000 people have been killed, according to Palestinian authorities, with thousands more feared buried under rubble.

“It’s difficult to get into the places where we need to get to in Gaza, especially in northern Gaza,” said WFP spokesperson Abeer Etefa.

“I think the risk of having pockets of famine in Gaza is very much still there.”

Northern Gaza was cut off altogether from external aid for weeks earlier in the conflict, while some aid entered the south from Egypt.

Etefa said there was a “systematic limitation on getting into the north of Gaza, not just for the WFP”.

“This is why we’re seeing people becoming more desperate and being impatient to wait for food distributions – because it’s very sporadic,” she said.

“They don’t get it frequently, and they have no trust or confidence that these convoys will come again.”

A U.N.-backed body said last month that Gaza’s entire population was facing crisis levels of hunger, with the risk of famine increasing every day.


Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy said on Tuesday there were “no limitations on the admission of humanitarian aid”.

“International actors interested in seeing more aid in Gaza should send more,” he said. “We still have a problem that U.N. agencies are unable to distribute the aid as quickly as Israel is processing it.”

But the U.N. humanitarian office (OCHA) has also said Israeli authorities are systematically denying it access to northern Gaza.

OCHA said that in the first two weeks of January, humanitarian agencies had planned 29 missions to deliver essential supplies to the north of the enclave, north of Wadi Gaza.

Only 24% were permitted to be carried out either fully or partially, a significant decrease from previous months.

“These denials prevent a scale-up in humanitarian assistance and add significant cost,” OCHA said, adding that it was also hobbled by long-standing Israeli restrictions on the import of critical humanitarian equipment into Gaza.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Geneva and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Editing by Miranda Murray, Nick Macfie, Alison Williams and Kevin Liffey)