- Written by Lucy Williamson
- BBC News, Jerusalem
People living in isolated areas in northern Gaza told the BBC that children are going days without food as aid convoys are increasingly being denied entry permits. . Some residents rely on grinding animal feed into flour to survive, but even stocks of those grains are now dwindling, they say.
People also said they were digging into the soil to access water pipes for drinking water and washing clothes.
The United Nations has warned that acute malnutrition among young children in the north is rapidly increasing and now exceeds the critical threshold of 15%.
The U.N.’s humanitarian coordinating agency, Ocha, said more than half of aid missions to northern Gaza were denied access last month, and Israeli military interference in how and where aid is provided is increasing.
The report says an estimated 300,000 people living in the northern region are largely excluded from aid and at increased risk of starvation.
“There is no hunger in Gaza,” a spokesman for the Israeli military agency tasked with coordinating aid access in Gaza said at a briefing last month. The government agency Kogat has repeatedly stated that it does not limit the amount of humanitarian aid sent to Gaza.
The BBC spoke to three people in Gaza City and Beit Lahia, and viewed footage and interviews filmed in Jabalia by local journalists.
Mahmoud Shalabi, a local medical aid worker in Beit Lahia, said people used to grind grains to make flour to feed animals, but even that is now running out.
“People aren’t finding it in the market,” he says. “Currently not available in northern Gaza and Gaza City.”
He also said that stocks of canned food are running out.
“What we experienced was actually during a truce period of six or seven days.” [in November]And all the aid allowed to northern Gaza has actually been consumed to date. What people now eat is basically rice and only rice. ”
The World Food Program (WFP) told the BBC this week that four of the last five aid convoys to the north had been intercepted by Israeli forces, leaving a two-week gap before supplies could reach Gaza City. did.
“Severe starvation risk”
WFP regional director Matt Hollingworth said: “We know that unless we provide regular and very large amounts of food aid, Gaza is at very serious risk of starvation.”
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) has seen a sharp rise in the number of aid missions being denied access to northern Gaza, with 56% of deliveries denied access in January compared to October-December. This is an increase from 14% of the previous year.
He also said that the Israeli military had “sometimes requested a justification” for the amount of fuel for medical facilities and “imposed reductions in the amount of food and other aid.”
The BBC has asked the Israeli military for a response. They directed us to Kogut and told us to contact the military with any questions.
Two weeks ago, Duha al-Khalidi, a mother of four who lives in Beit Lahia, trekked six miles (9.5 kilometers) to her sister’s house in Gaza City in a desperate search for food because her children weren’t eating at all. He told the BBC he walked. 3 days.
“I don’t have any money, and even if I did, there’s nothing in the main market in town,” she said. ”[My sister] And her family is also suffering. She shared with me her last pasta at her house. ”
“We feel that death has become inevitable,” said his sister Waad. “We lost the top floor of our house, but despite the fear of collapse, we still live here. We won’t find anything on the market for two weeks. Also, some items are available Even though it’s 10 times the normal price.” ”
A famine risk assessment carried out by multiple UN agencies estimates that almost a third of people in the northern region may now face “catastrophic” food shortages, but Due to access restrictions, real-time measurements are extremely difficult.
Families in northern regions are also struggling to find reliable water supplies.
“Many of us are currently drinking water that is not potable. There are no pipes. We have to dig for water,” explained Mahmoud Salah from Beit Lahia.
Video taken in Jabalia district, north of Gaza City, shows residents sitting in the rubble of bombed-out streets and digging into the ground to supply water to large underground water pipes. There is.
“We collect water here once every 15 days,” Yusuf al-Ayoti said. “The water is dirty. Children are getting irritated and their teeth are being eroded by the dirty water. The water has sand in it and is very salty.”
After four months of war, stopgap solutions to fill the hunger gap are running out. And there are few ways to replenish Gaza’s food stores.
Before the war, the territory depended on food aid. Today, much of its agricultural industry has been destroyed or abandoned.
“The destruction is enormous.”
New UN figures suggest more than half of the farmland in central Deir al-Balah has been damaged. This includes an olive press and farmland owned by Bassem Younis Abu Zayed.
“It’s like the aftermath of an earthquake,” he said. “The destruction was widespread, covering nearby buildings and livestock. Even if the factory could be repaired, 80-90% of the olives would be lost. This is not just a loss for this year, but for years to come. It will be a loss.”
Further south, in the border town of Rafah, more than 1 million people displaced by fighting elsewhere are competing for space with the town’s 300,000 residents.
The Israeli military regularly releases recent footage of busy markets and restaurants in central Gaza’s south. Most of the 114 aid missions to the southern Gaza region managed to conclude last month, but residents and aid agencies say many people are still hungry and suffering from a lack of shelter, sanitation and medical care. A public health crisis is looming.
Aid can be blocked by fighting, bureaucracy, and debris. Earlier this week, a food convoy waiting to head north in Gaza came under naval gunfire.
But the growing desperation of Gazans is making deliveries difficult, Matt Hollingworth said.
“We need to solve the law and order problem so we can move through the crowds of desperately hungry people to reach others we have not yet reached.” It eliminates the need to negotiate,” he said.
“Maybe what worries me is that level of helplessness. People are losing hope.”
A deal between Israel and Hamas is seen by many as the only way to increase aid to Gaza and rescue Israeli hostages.
As Israel bombs Rafah and ahead of a widely anticipated ground offensive, leaders on both sides are under pressure to end the suffering of those trapped in Gaza – their enemies and their own countries.