US aid official admits parts of Gaza already suffering from famine after months of warnings

US aid official admits parts of Gaza already suffering from famine after months of warnings
Samantha Power's admittance follows weeks of warnings from humanitarian experts and reports of children starving to death in Gaza
3 min read
13 April, 2024
Israel turned off water pipes into Gaza when it declared war in October 2023 [GETTY]

A senior US humanitarian official stated that famine is already occurring in parts of Gaza, weeks after a UN-backed report made the same conclusion and following months of warnings from aid agencies over the dire conditions in the war-torn Strip.

US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power's admission came on Wednesday when she was questioned by a Democratic congressman about a leaked USAID cable which said that famine was likely already happening in parts of Gaza.

Power said it was "credible" that famine is already occurring in parts of Gaza in line with an Integrated Food Classification (IPC) assessment from mid-March which determined that famine was 'imminent' in the northern governorates and could occur by May.

While humanitarian experts have maintained for weeks that Gaza's population is on the brink of famine, Power's remark is the first time it has been confirmed publicly by a US official that famine is taking place.

The IPC classification upgraded its previous December verdict to state that famine was 'imminent' across Gaza. The report had emphasised the dire conditions in the north of the Strip and warned that the situation would deteriorate if hostilities did not cease and aid access was improved.

The leaked cable which detailed USAID's internal analysis was first reported by Huffpost and determined that deaths from malnutrition would "accelerate" in the coming weeks.

It remains to be seen whether the admission from a US humanitarian official will place pressure on Israeli authorities to improve an aid system that has been criticised by organisations on the ground.

Action Against Hunger UK, which is operating in Gaza, said that a "massive scale-up" of 600 trucks a day of deliveries is needed to alleviate the situation.

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A spokesperson for Action Against Hunger told The New Arab that it is "unjustifiable to wait until a famine is confirmed to take measures that would have prevented it".

"Last month's update by the UN's hunger monitoring system said that famine in northern Gaza is projected to occur before May, and we know that at least 28 children have died from malnutrition, starvation, or dehydration".

Gaza's health system has collapsed, with just 11 out of 26 hospitals partially functioning, following Israel's attacks on medical workers and facilities and embargoes on imports into the strip. Up to 600,000 children are facing hunger in Rafah, UNICEF said last week.

The alarm bells follow calls for better access to the north of Gaza, where a UN official said this week that its food convoys are being repeatedly turned away by Israel.

The entire 2.3 million population is facing high levels of food insecurity, according to the IPC report. Those in the northern governorates have no access to clean water while only one of three water pipelines into Gaza from Israel is partially functioning, according to OCHA.