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Gazans living on animal feed and rice as food runs out


Residents in the remote northern region of Gaza have reported that children are experiencing prolonged periods of food deprivation as the authorities are increasingly refusing permission for humanitarian convoys to enter. According to the inhabitants, a few individuals have turned to pulverising animal feed into flour to survive. However, even the supplies of these grains are rapidly depleting.

Individuals have also recounted excavating into the ground to reach underground water conduits intended for drinking and cleansing.

The United Nations has issued a warning stating that there has been a significant increase in severe malnutrition among young children in the northern region, above the crucial threshold of 15%.

Last month, the UN's humanitarian coordination agency, Ocha, reported that over 50% of relief missions to the northern part of Gaza were not allowed entry. Additionally, there is a growing presence of Israeli soldiers who are interfering with the delivery of help, dictating the manner and location in which it is distributed.

Approximately 300,000 individuals residing in northern regions are now experiencing severe isolation from aid and are increasingly vulnerable to the threat of starvation.

In a recent briefing, a representative from the Israeli military agency responsible for facilitating assistance in Gaza said that malnutrition does not occur in the region. Full stop. Cogat, the organisation in question, has always stated that it does not restrict the quantity of humanitarian assistance sent to Gaza.

We interviewed three individuals residing in Gaza City and Beit Lahia and analysed video material and interviews conducted by local media in Jabalia.

Mahmoud Shalabi, a medical assistance worker in Beit Lahia, said the local population has resorted to processing animal feed grains into flour. However, this alternative is also becoming scarce.

"The product is not being found in the market," he said. "Currently, it is not accessible in the northern region of Gaza, including Gaza City."

In addition, he noted that supplies of canned food were vanishing.

"The resources we received were only from the six or seven days of ceasefire in November, and all the assistance that was permitted to enter the northern part of Gaza has already been used up." The current dietary consumption mainly consists of rice and only rice.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Israeli soldiers have halted four out of the previous five assistance convoys to the north, resulting in a two-week delay in delivering supplies to Gaza City.

"High danger of starvation"

"If we do not consistently provide substantial amounts of food assistance, there is a high likelihood of a severe famine occurring in Gaza," said Matt Hollingworth, the regional leader of the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), the number of relief missions refused entry to northern Gaza has significantly increased. In January, 56% of deliveries were denied admission, compared to 14% between October and December.

The report also said that the Israeli military sometimes demanded explanations for the amount of fuel being sent to health institutions and set limitations on the amount of assistance, including food supplies.

We requested a response from the Israeli military. We were instructed to forward our inquiries to Cogat, who advised us to take our queries to the military.

Duha al-Khalidi, a mother of four who lives in Beit Lahia, said that she embarked on a strenuous journey of six miles (9.5km) to reach her sister's residence in Gaza City. A desperate need for sustenance drove her since her children had endured three consecutive days without nourishment.

"I am currently lacking funds, and even if I had some, the town's primary marketplace would be devoid of any goods," she said. My sister and her family are also experiencing hardship." She disclosed to me the remaining spaghetti in her residence.

"We believe that death has become unavoidable," her sister, Waad, said. "Although the top floor of our house was destroyed, we continue to reside here despite the apprehension of structural failure." Over a week, we have been unable to locate any items in the market. In the rare event that some things are obtainable, they are sold for a price tenfold their usual value.

An evaluation of famine risk conducted by many United Nations organisations has projected that about one-third of those living in northern regions are now confronting a "catastrophic" food scarcity. However, the challenges in reaching the area make it very difficult to get real-time assessments.

Water scarcity is a pressing issue faced by families residing in northern regions.

"A significant number of individuals are currently consuming non-potable water." Mahmoud Salah in Beit Lahia clarified that a lack of plumbing infrastructure necessitates excavating for water.

A video captured in the Jabalia area, located north of Gaza City, shows inhabitants seated among the debris of destroyed streets. They are engaged in excavating the ground to access substantial underground water pipelines.

"Water is supplied to this location on a biweekly basis," said Yusuf al-Ayoti. The water is contaminated." Our children's condition is characterised by inflammation and dental erosion caused by contaminated water. The substance contains sand particles and exhibits a high level of salinity.

After four months of conflict, the temporary measures used to address the issue of food scarcity need to be revised. Few methods exist to replenish the food supply in Gaza.

Before the conflict, the area heavily depended on food assistance. However, most of its agricultural sector has been devastated or left unattended.

"The devastation is immense."

According to recent UN statistics, about 50% of the farmland in the central Deir al-Balah area has been affected. Bassem Younis Abu Zayed's farms and olive press are part of this.

"It looks like the aftermath of an earthquake," he said. The devastation is extensive, affecting nearby structures and even farm animals. We may be able to get the mill running again, but by then, 80–90% of the olives will be gone. "It's a loss for the next several years," rather than just this year.

In the southern town of Rafah, on the border with Jordan, 300,000 people are now vying for limited space, with over a million victims of the war elsewhere.

Israeli military films showing what seems to be recent footage of bustling marketplaces and restaurants in the southern areas of Gaza are often published online. While most of the 114 assistance missions that went into south Gaza last month were successful, locals and organisations working to alleviate the situation report that many people are still hungry and that a public health emergency is imminent due to inadequate housing, hygiene facilities, and healthcare.

Conflict, red tape, or debris may all obstruct relief efforts. Naval gunfire targeted a food convoy earlier last week while it was waiting to move north in Gaza.

However, the increasing desperation of the Gazan population makes delivery more difficult, according to Matt Hollingworth.

"We need the law and order issue resolved so that we're not having to negotiate our way through crowds of desperately hungry people to get to other people that we've yet to reach," he said.

What concerns me is likely the degree of powerlessness. All hope has been gone.

The only option to increase supplies to Gaza and free Israeli prisoners is for Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement, according to many.

With Israel preparing to launch a ground attack in Rafah, officials on both sides are feeling the heat to alleviate the suffering of the people trapped in Gaza, whether it be their own or their enemy's.

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