GAZA, 21 December 2023: The Government of Israel’s military actions are pushing children and families in Gaza towards famine, Save the Children warned today, as newly released data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) shows one in four households in Gaza now face catastrophic food insecurity, including starvation.

The analysis shows the entire population of Gaza is now at risk famine and facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. This is the highest proportion of people facing food insecurity that the IPC has ever analysed in any country or region in history.

There is almost no humanitarian aid reaching northern Gaza despite a significant number of civilians still living there, including those who were unable to flee, such as the elderly and people with disabilities.

Based on the new analysis, Save the Children fears that if the current siege and bombardment persist, thousands of children risk dying of starvation and related illness. Over 337,000 children under five and 155,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women across Gaza are estimated by the UN to need lifesaving nutrition  support, yet more than half of them are in northern Gaza and almost completely cut off from any humanitarian aid, including health services. At least 7,685 of these children are currently experiencing wasting or severe wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition for children, that can be fatal if left untreated. Children who are malnourished have a higher likelihood of dying from common  illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, a significant fear as Gaza’s health care system faces total collapse.

Save the Children’s Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee, said:

“Deliberately denying children access to lifesaving food and other essentials by restricting humanitarian aid, services, and goods and pushing a population into smaller and smaller areas that lack the basics to sustain life violates international humanitarian law and could amount to a war crime. The international community must prevent ‘atrocity crimes’ from unfolding as a moral imperative and as their legal obligation.

“A serious risk of growing food insecurity in some parts of Gaza is a catastrophic turning point in an already dire situation. Unless the Government of Israel immediately lifts the siege on humanitarian aid and goods, a generation of children in Gaza, who are under constant bombardment, will also suffer the long-term consequences of severe malnutrition. Many simply won’t survive.”

Access to food and water in Gaza is diminishing by the hour with less than a fraction of the humanitarian aid needed reaching communities due to the continuing siege as well as the extensive destruction and disruption of food production, including farms and bakeries. Aid deliveries into Gaza have only reached 15.4% of pre-war levels , with families forced to queue for days just to access food rations, according to the Food Security Sector in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Gaza’s healthcare system is already on the brink of collapse with less than a third of hospitals only partially functional and completely overwhelmed with sick and injured civilians. Increasing levels of hunger leave thousands of children at risk of being stunted and at greater risk of disease, without the possibility of treatment.

Any use of starvation as a method of warfare will have deadly consequences for children. Children who survive being malnourished can face long term consequences in their health and brain development. Malnourished girls are more likely to go on to be malnourished pregnant women, with increased risk of their newborn babies having growth failure.

Save the Children calls for an immediate and definitive ceasefire and calls on the Government of Israel to lift the siege of Gaza, to allow the unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance, to resume basic services like water and electricity, and resume the crossing of commercial trucks.