Gaza’s doctors describe hunger and fear, as starvation reaches unprecedented levels

Gaza’s doctors describe hunger and fear, as starvation reaches unprecedented levels
Organisations such as the World Food Programme have warned that Gaza is currently facing poor food consumption levels
6 min read
09 December, 2023
A doctor is seen at the Yaffa Hospital, which was severely damaged in the Israeli attacks in Deir al-Balah, Gaza [Getty]

Nine out of ten Palestinians have gone a full day and night with nothing to eat in areas across Gaza, a new report by the World Food Programme (WFP) says. 

The WFP also reported that up to 97 percent of Gazans do not have enough food to meet their basic needs amid Israel's siege and military assault on the Palestinian enclave.

For Gaza’s medical workers, dwindling access to food and water has exacerbated their struggle to cope throughout the crisis, while tackling carrying out life-saving work.

"I will be honest with you, I am very hungry and I have low energy. I have been hungry for a while now. I am currently located in the nursing school at the European Hospital in Gaza at the moment,” a senior clinician from Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) told The New Arab

The clinician, who did not wish to identify himself, said that increasing hunger levels have significantly affected him and his children.

He added that he has received the help of humanitarian only once, to which he described having been given “mostly biscuits and canned food.” 

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The clinician pointed out that his efforts to secure food are to ensure his children are a priority, adding that he has not “experienced the feeling of being full for weeks”. 

“The bombing around my residence caused psychological problems for my children. They are afraid of the dark and the sounds of the bombing are terrifying,” he said. 

“My son is five years old and he asks me to get him rice and meat. He doesn't understand that his father is more hungry than he is." 

On Tuesday, a number of people stormed a warehouse where two days' worth of food aid had piled up before distribution, the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) said.  

People desperately snatched whatever they could and ran off with sacks of flour. 

“The hunger war has started,” said Nawras Abu Libdeh, a medical worker based in Khan Younis with MAP told news agency Associated Press. “And this is the worst of all wars.”

In recent days, Israeli tanks have rumbled into southern Gaza, starting with Khan Younis. 

It's the opening of a grim new chapter in a war in which Israel has already killed 17,487 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza. 

Organisations such as Doctors Without Borders have (MSF) issued warnings on the challenges faced, as nonstop heavy shelling, water scarcity and food shortages have prevented their patients from accessing adequate medical care. 

Doctors Against Genocide (DAG), a global healthcare coalition, detailed the extremities of dehydration and starvation experienced by their own doctors. 

“Collective punishment and starvation have long been tactics of genocide, and accountability for and recognition of these genocidal tactics is an important part of our international institutions,” DAG said in a statement obtained by The New Arab

“The effects of starvation and dehydration in Gaza are serious, immediate and dire. Currently, supplies of food and clean water are nearly non-existent, with only a fraction of the necessary aid reaching through the borders. 

“Israeli leaders have vowed to make Gaza uninhabitable and cutting food, water, electricity and fuel is their winning strategy.” 

Internist Dr. Maher Ali, and Gaza City based pedeatrician Dr. Faten Ali, who are also DAG members, illustrated the severity of the situation.  

The doctors said that with just one loaf of bread per day and the unavailability of canned food and other essential items such as milk, eggs, and cheese, many people have resorted to “begging for food”. 

Dr. Maher and Dr. Faten highlighted that while flour is still available, it is “exorbitantly priced” at $100 for a single bag- adding that a “black market for flour has emerged”.  

“This devastating reality paints a grim picture of the daily struggles faced by the people of Gaza,” the doctors said. 

The WFP said it has since become impossible to get supplies to hungry people in the Gaza Strip as Israel stepped up its attacks across the Strip. 

"With law and order breaking down, any meaningful humanitarian operation is impossible," WFP's Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said in a statement after a visit to the Palestinian enclave on Friday. 

"With just a fraction of the needed food supplies coming in, a fatal absence of fuel, interruptions to communications systems and no security for our staff or for the people we serve at food distributions, we cannot do our job," he added. 

According to international humanitarian criteria, one individual requires a minimum of almost four gallons of clean water per day for drinking and to meet basic consumption standards. 

UNICEF’s executive director Catherine Russell said that such a standard is far from being met in Gaza.  

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Russell reported that 96 per cent of the besieged territory’s water supply is considered “unfit for human consumption”, while the lack of fuel has led to the halt of any wastewater treatment and water pumping. 

Various rights groups and humanitarian figures have raised concerns over the overwhelmingly high numbers of starvation among Gazans, from key workers to those displaced by the war, which is said to be used as a method of Israeli war tactics. 

Michael Fakhri, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, emphasised how various aspects, such as the rising rates of hunger in Gaza, ultimately allude to war crimes being committed- as well as “a risk of genocide”. 

“The medical system has already collapsed in Gaza. Every single person in Gaza is going hungry and faces the risk of famine, 2.2 million people over half of which are children.  Nowhere is safe in Gaza and no one is safe from disease,” Fakhri told The New Arab

“Israeli officials have made their intent clear, with their calls for another Nakba accompanied with regular use of dehumanizing language, that they are waging a war against the Palestinian people as a people. This means there is a risk of genocide. 

“In turn, this means that every country in the world has the duty to do everything it can to prevent genocide. The only solution is an immediate permanent ceasefire and the ending of the Israeli occupation.”