Photo: WFP/Ali Jadallah/2023

United Nations Food Agency Pauses Deliveries to the North of Gaza

Published February 20, 2024

ROME – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is pausing deliveries of lifesaving food aid to northern Gaza until conditions are in place that allow for safe distributions.

The decision to pause deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip has not been taken lightly, as we know it means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger. The U.N. World Food Programme is deeply committed to urgently reaching desperate people across Gaza but the safety and security to deliver critical food aid – and for the people receiving it – must be ensured.

Deliveries resumed on Sunday after a three-week suspension following the strike on an UNRWA truck and due to the absence of a functioning humanitarian notification system. The plan was to send 10 trucks of food for seven straight days, to help stem the tide of hunger and desperation and to begin building trust in communities that there would be enough food for all.

On Sunday, as the U.N. World Food Programme started the route towards Gaza City, the convoy was surrounded by crowds of hungry people close to the Wadi Gaza checkpoint. First fending off multiple attempts by people trying to climb aboard our trucks, then facing gunfire once we entered Gaza City, our team was able to distribute a small quantity of the food along the way. On Monday, the second convoy’s journey north faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order. Several trucks were looted between Khan Younis and Deir al Balah and a truck driver was beaten. The remaining flour was spontaneously distributed off the trucks in Gaza city, amidst high tension and explosive anger.

In December, the Integrated Phase Classification report compiled by 15 agencies including the U.N. World Food Programme warned of the risk of famine in northern Gaza by May unless conditions there improved decisively. At the end of January, after delivering food to the north, we reported on the rapid deterioration of conditions. In these past two days our teams witnessed unprecedented levels of desperation.

The latest reports confirm Gaza’s precipitous slide into hunger and disease. Food and safe water have become incredibly scarce and diseases are rife, compromising women and children’s nutrition and immunity and resulting in a surge of acute malnutrition. People are already dying from hunger-related causes.

A report issued Monday by UNICEF and the U.N. World Food Programme, based on recent data, finds that the situation is particularly extreme in the northern Gaza Strip. Nutrition screenings conducted at shelters and health centers in the north found that 15.6% – or one in six children under 2 years of age – are acutely malnourished.

The U.N. World Food Programme will seek ways to resume deliveries in a responsible manner as soon as possible. A large-scale expansion of the flow of assistance to northern Gaza is urgently needed to avoid disaster. To achieve this, the U.N. World Food Programme needs significantly higher volumes of food coming into the Gaza strip from multiple routes. Additionally, crossing points to the north of Gaza must open. A functioning humanitarian notification system and a stable communication network are needed. And security, for our staff and partners as well as for the people we serve, must be facilitated.

Gaza is hanging by a thread and the U.N. World Food Programme must be enabled to reverse the path towards famine for thousands of desperately hungry people.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and the world’s leading humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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