The director of the United Nations World Food Programme Cindy McCain said in an interview to CBS News on Sunday that Gaza could be “on the brink” of famine amid Israel’s war on the besieged Palestinian territory.
“We’re looking at possibly being on the brink of famine in this region,” McCain said, calling for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid being sent to Gaza. “It’s a massive, catastrophic event that is occurring, and it will cross regions as it happens. With that comes disease and everything else that you can imagine.”
McCain’s comments came in response to a question about a recent statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund, that warns of a “catastrophic nutrition crisis” among children in Gaza.
“We project that over the next few months, child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition in children, could increase by nearly 30% in Gaza,” the agency said on Wednesday.
The World Health Organisation defines child wasting as a condition in which a child is too thin for his or her height, due to rapid weight loss or the failure to gain weight. Though severe child wasting leads to an increased chance of death it is treatable.
The agency warned that the public health crisis in Gaza is being worsened by the forced shutdown of the healthcare system, with more than two-thirds of all hospitals there no longer functioning due to a lack of fuel and water.
The UN food chief’s comments came on the third day of a four-day truce between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas that has seen a pause in fighting and the release of hostages by both sides.
Since the truce began, McCain said that the World Food Programme has been able to feed 110,000 but “need[s] to do a lot more than that”.
Al Jazeera on Monday reported that food prices in the densely populated Palestinian enclave have surged since October 7, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. People are taking advantage of the truce to stock up on food supplies, but are having to wait in queue for hours to purchase wheat and other basic staples.
On November 10, Reuters cited a World Food Programme official in reporting that all of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants are “food insecure” and face malnutrition a month into Israel’s offensive.