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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Famine has begun in northern Gaza, US official says

By Liam Stack

Samantha Power, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told lawmakers this week that a famine is underway in the northern Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by six months of Israeli military operations and is the part of the territory most cut off from aid.

Power’s statement was significant as it made her the first senior U.S. official to publicly identify the hunger crisis in Gaza as a famine. But her agency, known as USAID, later sought to temper Power’s comments, clarifying that her assessment was based on data collected in March, not on new information.

“While there has not been a new assessment, conditions remain dire,” USAID said in a statement Thursday.

Aid agencies and global experts have warned for months that nearly all 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza would soon face extreme hunger.

Power, whose comments came during a congressional testimony Wednesday, was citing a March report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative, a group of U.N. agencies and relief agencies also known as the IPC, the USAID statement said.


That report said northern Gaza, the first part of the territory that Israeli forces invaded in October, could tip into famine between mid-March and May. The northern part of the enclave has been heavily damaged by the war and is far from the two open border crossings in the south through which nearly all aid is arriving.

During her congressional testimony Wednesday, Power was asked by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, about reports that her agency had sent a cable to the National Security Council saying famine had begun in parts of Gaza. The cable was first reported by HuffPost.

“Do you think it is plausible or likely that parts of Gaza, and in particular northern Gaza, are already experiencing famine?” Castro asked.

Power said that appeared to be the case, and cited the IPC report, whose methodology she described as sound. At the time, she did not specify which IPC report she was referring to.

“That is their assessment, and we believe that assessment is credible,” Power said.

“So famine is already occurring there?” Castro replied.

“That is — yes,” Power said.

The IPC usually classifies a food shortage as a famine when at least 20% of households face an extreme lack of food, when at least 30% of children suffer from acute malnutrition and when at least 2 adults or 4 children for every 10,000 people die each day from starvation or disease linked to malnutrition.

Power said later in her testimony that the rate of severe malnutrition among children in Gaza had become “markedly worse” since Oct. 7, when a Hamas-led terrorist attack prompted Israel to launch its military offensive in Gaza.

“In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to Oct. 7 was almost zero, and it is now 1 in 3 kids,” she said. She added: “In terms of actual severe acute malnutrition for under-5s, that rate was 16% in January and became 30% in February. We’re awaiting the March numbers, but we expect it to continue.”

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