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'Unprecedented' levels of 'near famine-like conditions' in Gaza — UN

By AFP - Feb 13,2024 - Last updated at Feb 13,2024

Palestinians inspect the damage in the rubble of a building where two hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forcess in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on Monday (AFP photo)

ROME — The population of the Gaza Strip is suffering "unprecedented" levels of "near famine-like conditions" as the Hamas-Israel war drags on, the UN's agriculture agency said Monday.

Some 550,000 people are now likely facing catastrophic food insecurity levels, while the whole population is in crisis mode, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

"There are unprecedented levels of acute food insecurity, hunger, and near famine-like conditions in Gaza," FAO Deputy Director General Beth Bechdol said in an interview published by the Rome-based agency.

"We are seeing more and more people essentially on the brink of and moving into famine-like conditions every day," she said.

All 2.2 million people in Gaza are in the top three hunger categories, from level three, which is considered an emergency, to level five, or catastrophe, she said.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) rates hunger levels from one to five.

“At this stage, probably about 25 per cent of that 2.2 million are in that top-level IPC five category,” Bechdol said.

Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, has become a last refuge for fleeing civilians.

Many are sleeping outside in tents and makeshift shelters amid mounting concern about lack of food, water and sanitation during an Israeli siege.

Before the conflict, the people of Gaza had “a self-sustaining fruit and vegetable production sector, populated with greenhouses, while there was also a robust backyard small-scale livestock production sector”, Bechdol said.

“We’ve recognised from our damage assessments that most of these animal inventories, but also the infrastructure that is needed for that kind of specialty crop production, are virtually destroyed,” she said.

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