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Famine in Gaza

The realities and impact of famine run deep in our history and in our national psyche. The people of Ireland have always responded when regions have been at risk of famine, doing as much as possible to prevent famine.  When other countries have suffered famine - Biafra, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, etc. - the people of Ireland raised money for food and humanitarian aid.  Motivated by compassion and a deep sense of our collective humanity, the Irish have consistently been at the forefront to raise awareness around the conditions attributing to famine and food insecurity.  Although we’re a small population, we have little difficulty in making our voices heard, challenging those in positions of power to make decisions for the benefit of all.  Yet, unfortunately, our voices continue to be needed. 

Food insecurity continues to be at emergency levels in East Africa, particularly in Sudan. But now, famine has come upon the people of Gaza.


Famine is never a surprise.  It does not simply happen.  Famine is predictable and we know the conditions which cause it. 


Access to food, severity of malnutrition and number of deaths attributed to malnutrition, are the factors which determine famine. All of these factors are measurable and they are tracked.  In most cases of famine, conditions slowly deteriorate and as the factors trend downward, famine occurs slowly, over time.  Sometimes, the trends are reversed, sometimes they are not.  But rarely do the conditions for famine occur within a short space of time. 

For instance, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network observes conditions to provide a three-month forecast on regions that are at risk of food emergency or famine. The conditions they monitor are weather, recent harvests, functionality of markets and access to aid.[i]  This is something the international humanitarian organisations, and governments, closely and regularly monitor.  Sometimes there is media interest in these reports, which helps generate public awareness and can assist in addressing the cause and, ultimately, reverse the trend.  Sadly, and more often the case, awareness levels remain low and the situation continues.

However, what the world has been witnessing in Gaza is a completely different scenario.  We’re all aware of the conflict.  Any time there is armed conflict, there can be confusion on how to respond.  Regardless of one’s point of view on who started the conflict, the manner in which the conflict continues or who is supporting the ongoing action; the fact remains that approximately two million people within the borders of a Gaza are living within a humanitarian catastrophe that is on course to become a famine. 

On Monday 18th March, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) published a report declaring that famine is imminent in Gaza with 1.1 million people experiencing catastrophic food insecurity.[ii]  According to IPC classifications,  famine occurs when at least 20% of the population in a given area have an extreme lack of food, more than 30% have severe, acute malnutrition and more than two people in every 10,000 die each day.[iii]  To put it bluntly, children are starving to death.  To be equally blunt, this is wrong.

For a long time INGOs were unable to deliver aid to the people of Gaza. In recent months some shipments of humanitarian aid have been getting through but what is delivered is not enough – no where near enough to meet the need. This is why some countries are providing air drops of food and aid.

As of 23rd February 2024, there were only 15 humanitarian organisations providing food assistance across the Gaza Strip. Five organisations were conducting screenings for malnutrition among children aged 6 months to 5 years old, using mid-upper arm circumference measurements. The numbers of organisations providing food and the number of organisations assessing the needs are not enough to cover the more than two million people in need.[iv]


Any time famine occurs, it is a devasting human tragedy. 


When famine is manmade, it is a shameful indictment on those who caused it.  In this situation, millions of people all over the world abhor what is happening to the approximately 2.2 million people within Gaza and are pleading for a change.  Individuals, community groups, churches, aid organisations, even governments are calling for a ceasefire so that vital, adequate amounts of humanitarian aid (food, water, medicine, medical supplies and fuel) can be safely delivered to those who need it.   

Tearfund Ireland have always advocated for those who cannot speak for themselves – especially vulnerable children.  We join our voice with those who are campaigning, advocating and praying on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.  There must be a ceasefire. Hostages must be released. Effective, adequate aid must be safely and securely delivered.  Human beings must not be treated this way.  Children must no longer be starved.


[i] Source:  accessed 19th March, 2024

[ii] Source:  accessed 19th March, 2024

[iii] Source:  accessed 19th March, 2024. 

[iv] Source:   ACAPS Briefing Note 08 March 2024; p.6