UN Expert: Israel is Engineering Famine in Gaza – David Kattenburg 3/11/24

Source: Mondoweiss.net

UN Special Rapporteur Michael Fakhri says Israel’s intentional starvation of Gaza is unprecedented. “We’ve never seen a civilian population made to go hungry so completely and so quickly,” he tells Mondoweiss. “Never in modern history.”

Back in mid-December, two and a half months into Israel’s war on Gaza, a UN-affiliated committee of famine experts reported that over half a million Gazans faced catastrophic hunger, all 2.3 million were in crisis, and the situation was “deteriorating rapidly.”

On the eve of the Famine Review Committee’s follow-up assessment, forced starvation in Gaza is getting worse, fast.

In a March 5 statement, seven UN experts declared that “Israel has been intentionally starving” Gaza, and that “widespread famine” in the besieged, brutalized enclave is “imminent.”

Mondoweiss spoke with the first author of the statement, Michael Fakhri, Special UN Rapporteur on the right to food.

“It’s just sort of unfolding at a speed we’ve never seen before,” Fakhri told Mondoweiss. “We’ve never seen children pushed into malnutrition so quickly. This was all preventable.”

“I have no doubt — and this is again in consultation with experts all over the world — we all have no doubt that the horror, the numbers, the degree of hunger, the degree of death from malnutrition will be higher than we’re able to measure right now.”

According to Gaza health officials and a “senior doctor,” cited on March 8 by the Associated Press, at least 20 people have died from dehydration and malnutrition at north Gaza’s Kamal Adwan and al-Shifa’ hospitals, and sixteen premature babies have succumbed to “malnutrition-related” disorders at Rafah’s Emirati Hospital.

On March 10, Al Jazeera reported 25 “known starvation deaths” in northern Gaza.

For famine to be declared in Gaza, three criteria need to be met, says Michael Fakhri. First, at least 20 percent of its population must face hunger. Second, one out of three children must be “acutely malnourished, or “wasting.”

The third famine indicator — the hardest to measure in wars where journalists and aid specialists are denied access — two out of 10,000 inhabitants of a population must be dying every day due to starvation, malnutrition, or associated disease.

“It’s hard to determine the degree of how many people are actually dying from malnutrition and disease and hunger, versus bombs and bullets,” Michael Fakhri told Mondoweiss.

“Nevertheless, the fact that we’re seeing now… children…dying from malnutrition and dehydration, what that tells all of us, that tells us is that there probably already is a famine.”

And famine is emerging in Gaza at an unprecedented pace, Fakhri says. “We’ve never seen a civilian population made to go hungry so completely and so quickly. Never in modern history. We’ve never seen children pushed into malnutrition so quickly. Never.”

And, says Fakhri, Israel’s use of food as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with Hamas confirms his and his colleagues’ March 5 claim that Israel has been “intentionally starving” Gazans. “That’s actually what President Biden said today [March 7 State of the Union address], that Israel should not use humanitarian aid as a bargaining chip,” says Fakhri.

Destroying the food system in Gaza

As Israeli negotiators play starvation poker, key cabinet ministers have been refusing to authorize increased aid shipments while blocking aid deliveries.

According to Sky News, Israel’s military occupation authority (COGAT) is prepared to boost aid into northern Gaza if the Israeli cabinet tells it to.

“That would be a decision that needs to be made by the government,” COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told Sky News on March 7.

“If they were to make such a decision, then we would find a way to facilitate their decision. If the directive came from the government, then COGAT would find a way to fulfill that mission.”

Blocked food aid is just part of the problem, says Fakhri. Gaza’s food system is being systematically destroyed. ….

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