UN report says Gaza has largest number of people facing famine

UN report says Gaza has largest number of people facing famine
The United Nations released its report on Wednesday, revealing that Gaza has the largest number of people facing famine.
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Widespread famine is imminent in Gaza [GETTY]

Nearly 282 million people in 59 countries suffered from acute hunger in 2023, with war-torn Gaza as the territory with the largest number of people facing famine, according to the Global Report on Food Crises released Wednesday.

The UN report said 24 million more people faced an acute lack of food than in 2022 due to the sharp deterioration in food security, especially in the Gaza Strip and Sudan. The number of nations with food crises that are monitored has also been expanded.

It said conflict will also continue to drive food insecurity in Haiti, where gangs control large portions of the capital.

Máximo Torero, the chief economist for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, said 705,000 people in five countries are at Phase 5, the highest level, on a scale of hunger determined by international experts — the highest number since the global report began in 2016 and quadruple the number that year.

According to the report's future outlook, around 1.1 million people in Gaza, where Israel's war on Gaza is now in its seventh month, and 79,000 in South Sudan are projected to be in Phase 5 and facing famine by July.

Over 80% of those facing imminent famine, 577,000 people, were in Gaza, he said. South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Somalia, and Mali each host many thousands facing catastrophic hunger.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report "a roll call of human failings" and said that "in a world of plenty, children are starving to death."

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"The conflicts erupting over the past 12 months compound a dire global situation," he wrote in the report's foreword.

Guterres highlighted the conflict in the Gaza Strip, as the enclave holds the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger. There is also the year-old conflict in Sudan, which has created the world's largest internal displacement crisis "with atrocious impacts on hunger and nutrition," he added.

According to the report, over 36 million people in 39 countries and territories are facing an acute hunger emergency, a step below the famine level in Phase 4, with more than a third in Sudan and Afghanistan. It's an increase of a million people from 2022, the report said.

Arif Husain, the UN World Food Program's chief economist, said the number of people acutely food insecure has increased yearly since 2016, and they are now more than double the number before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the report looks at 59 countries, he said the target is to get data from 73 countries where there are people who are acutely food insecure.

Secretary-General Guterres called for an urgent response to the report's findings that addresses the underlying causes of acute hunger and malnutrition while transforming the systems that supply food. Funding is also not keeping pace with the needs, he stressed.

"We must have the funding, and we also must have the access," WFP's Husain said, stressing that both "go hand-in-hand" and are essential to tackle acute food insecurity.

The report is the flagship publication of the Food Security Information Network. It is based on a collaboration of 16 partners, including UN agencies, regional and multinational bodies, the European Union, the US Agency for International Development, and technical organisations.