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Six months into Gaza conflict, malnutrition and famine emerging

People displaced by conflict in southern Gaza draw water from a solar-powered well equipped with a desalinization system. Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Palestinians are being starved as violence continues.

After six months of deadly conflict in Gaza, people caught up in the fighting are struggling to survive violence and malnutrition. As many as 1.1 million people in Gaza are facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

“Can you understand what is going on?” asks Ghada Al Haddad, Oxfam's media and communications officer, who is based in Gaza along with 25 other Oxfam staff. “Ongoing airstrikes, ongoing bombing, ongoing shelling,” she says, listing the deadly risks facing Palestinians in Gaza, and what it means for the population: “No electricity, no medical care, no stable communication, but above all, a looming threat of famine.”

Famine crisis in Gaza

The situation is most severe in northern Gaza, where about 300,000 people are trapped. “Before the war, we were in good health and had strong bodies,” one woman in northern Gaza told Oxfam. “Now, looking at my children and myself, we have lost so much weight since we do not eat any proper food, we are trying to eat whatever we find -- edible wild plants or herbs -- just to survive.”

A family seeking shelter in an area in southern Gaza bakes bread in a make-shift clay oven they built. After six months of conflict, there are now more than 1.1 million people in Gaza facing severe food insecurity. Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

Since January, people in northern Gaza are surviving on an average of 245 calories a day -- less than a can of beans, Oxfam estimates. This is just 12 percent of the recommended daily 2,100 calories needed per person.

As Israeli forces continue their military onslaught on Gaza, an analysis by the Integrated Phase Classification found that famine is imminent in northern Gaza and that almost all the population is now experiencing extreme hunger.

“Security conditions in northern Gaza are preventing any humanitarian response,” says Scott Paul, Oxfam’s associate director for peace and security. “An imminent famine is unfolding before our eyes,” he told journalists in a press conference. “Northern Gaza should be a famine response zone, but instead it is a free fire zone. We can’t move forward to respond to the needs of Palestinians in Gaza without a ceasefire.”

Oxfam is supporting the work of organizations in Gaza to provide shelter material, clean water and basic sanitation services, and food, while calling for a permanent ceasefire, the return of all hostages and the release of unlawfully detained Palestinian prisoners, and for full humanitarian aid access. Oxfam is also urging countries to immediately stop supplying arms to Israel.

Clean water from wells

Oxfam is working with numerous partners based in Gaza to provide food, shelter assistance, and hygiene items including soap and menstrual products. Since October 2023, Oxfam and our partners have reached more than 260,000 people.

To improve the supply of water to people displaced by the conflict and seeking shelter in southern areas of Gaza, Oxfam is working with Palestinian Environmental Friends (PEF), Bayader, and the Gaza Municipal Water Authority to repair wells and install solar powered pumps and desalinization systems to make the salty groundwater in southern Gaza drinkable. So far they have installed these systems at five wells that are serving 10,500 people. We are also working with Youth Empowerment Center to deliver water by truck to tanks that are providing water to serve more than 44,000 displaced people.

A technician works on a water desalinization system to be installed by Oxfam’s partners in Gaza at a well that will provide drinking water for people displaced by conflict. Alef Multimedia/Oxfam

PEF and Oxfam are also installing 68 latrine blocks (each consisting of three latrines and a shower) to help 10,000 displaced people in southern areas of Gaza. Adequate sanitation and hygiene practices are essential to help displaced people in densely populated areas to avoid deadly water-borne diseases.

Urging U.S. action on Gaza

Oxfam America’s President and CEO Abby Maxman says the U.S. needs to do more to save lives in Gaza.

"Even as children are starved to death and aid workers are killed in Israeli airstrikes, the Biden administration is doubling down on providing weapons for Israel's military operation in Gaza,” she said in a press release. “To maintain its policy of unconditional military support for Israel, the administration is taking its 'see no evil, hear no evil' policy to absurd and deadly lengths. The United States must pause its arms sales and own up to why the death toll in Gaza continues to climb.”

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