UNRWA’s funding crisis compounds Gaza’s problems amid governance vacuum

Special UNRWA’s funding crisis compounds Gaza’s problems amid governance vacuum
With a massive funding shortfall following donor suspensions, UNRWA’s postwar fate hangs in the balance. (AFP)
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Updated 20 March 2024

UNRWA’s funding crisis compounds Gaza’s problems amid governance vacuum

UNRWA’s funding crisis compounds Gaza’s problems amid governance vacuum
  • Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief raised $170 million for the UN agency after the US and other donors suspended funding
  • Funds crunch threatens assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon

LONDON: Hopes are fading fast for the restoration of funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, which provides assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza and across the region, after reports that the suspension of US donations could be made permanent.

Fourteen donors, including Germany, the UK, and the US, paused funding a little over a month ago after it emerged that UNRWA had launched an internal investigation into allegations that 12 of its staff had participated in the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7.

The US alone provided UNRWA with $343 million in 2023. Seeking to address the massive shortfall left by the suspension, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, KSrelief, collected almost $170 million in charitable donations.

Support for the continued suspension is not universal, however. Canada, the European Commission and Sweden have all announced that they will resume assistance. (AFP)

However, Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, KSrelief’s supervisor general, said that the only way to get the agency back on its feet was to lift the suspensions, telling a UAE daily he hoped “global funders will revisit their stance.”

Gershon Baskin, Middle East director for International Communities Organization, agrees with the view that a restoration of funding is essential to UNRWA’s survival, adding that diplomatic efforts to push “particularly the US” to revisit its position were understandable.

Support for the continued suspension is not universal, however. Canada, the European Commission and Sweden have all announced that they will resume assistance.


• 5 Territories where UNRWA works (Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan).

• $343m American funding for UNRWA in 2023.

• $170m Money collected by KSrelief to fill UNRWA funding gap.

Riham Jafari, advocacy coordinator for Action Aid’s occupied Palestinian territories office, said that these announcements, together with the efforts coming from Riyadh, were “very important.”

“These developments will allow UNRWA to continue its humanitarian and development work and respond to the increasing humanitarian needs of Gaza residents resulting from continuous war against Gaza,” Jafari told Arab News.

Israel alleged that 12 UNRWA staff participated in the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7.  (AFP)

“Politically, this means that supporting UNRWA is part of supporting stability in the region and supporting international justice, as UNRWA is responsible for serving millions of refugees. It is part of supporting regional peace.”

However, despite the $170 million raised by KSrelief and the resumption of funding from Canada, Sweden and the EC, Jafari said that it is unlikely this will be enough to make up the remaining shortfall.

To make matters worse, the fallout from the funding suspension seems to have had ripple effects across the wider humanitarian aid sector, with organizations expressing concern over the perception that no aid is getting into the besieged enclave at all.

A spokesperson for the UK-headquartered charity Muslim Hands told Arab News that this perception was both a “concerning and untrue” development.

“It has also led to a reduction in the contributions being received, something we are keen to redress,” the spokesperson said. “Not only is the aid we are sending getting to those in need in the Gaza Strip, we have live trackers that allow those who support us to see this.”

The US alone provided UNRWA with $343 million in 2023. (AFP)

However, for all the efforts of such charities, Baskin told Arab News “there is no organization on the ground that can step in and replace what UNRWA does. Just looking at the others, they collectively offer less than 10 percent of what it provides.”

The chances of the US restoring its funding for UNRWA were dealt a blow last week when State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller told a briefing “we have to plan for the fact that Congress may make that pause permanent.”

Fourteen donors, including Germany, the UK, and the US, paused funding for UNRWA a little over a month ago. (AFP)

This is despite President Joe Biden having said that the work of UNRWA was “indispensable.”

Biden could use his executive powers to lift the suspension. But, according to Reuters, even if he did take such a unilateral step, he would only be able to release about $300,000 to the agency before having to turn to Congress once again for approval.

Israel is conducting a military campaign in Gaza in its war with Hamas. (AFP)

In a somewhat contradictory move, the Biden administration appears to be supporting a funding bill that would provide military aid to both Israel and Ukraine but which also contains a provision that would block UNRWA funding should it become law.

William Deere, director of UNRWA’s Washington representative office, told Reuters that with US support accounting for one third of the agency’s total budget, the loss — temporary or otherwise — would be “very hard to overcome.”

He said that UNRWA’s work extends beyond humanitarian relief for Gaza. “It’s health care, education and social services. It’s East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon” — everywhere Palestinian refugees reside in the region.

Israeli soldiers inside an evacuated compound. (AFP)

Meanwhile, the Israeli government has sought to discredit the agency — a challenge Jordanian analyst Osama Al-Sharif said that UNRWA has lived with “for decades.”

“As far as Israel goes, defunding UNRWA is part of a larger plan to bury the issue of Palestinian refugees and the political aspects tied to their fate under any future settlement,” Al-Sharif told Arab News.

“But the Gaza debacle has damaged the Israeli effort, as now almost all Gazans are displaced, including the original refugees. The international community will have to support UNRWA now to contain the humanitarian disaster there.”


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

No matter what donor nations ultimately decide to do about their suspended funding, Baskin said that the internal and independent investigations into what involvement UNRWA staff had in the Oct. 7 attack had to be addressed for the sake of accountability.

A Palestinian carries sacks of humanitarian aid at the distribution center of UNRWA. (AFP)

In practice, he said that this would improve transparency, ensuring staff were not co-opting aid, pointing to issues surrounding the purported use of UNRWA sites by Hamas’ militant wing.

It would appear UNRWA’s future hinges not only on the outcome of the investigation but, as noted by former MP and director of the Conservative Middle East Council Charlotte Leslie, the agency proving the investigation’s veracity.

“If cleared of the allegations and demonstrably adequate steps are taken to ensure UNRWA itself does not pose a security risk, it would set a very damaging precedent if allegations alone were able to shut down an international organization,” Leslie told Arab News.

For Al-Sharif, the real question is about Palestine’s future. In his view, it is “essential to look at what is happening in Gaza not as a charity case but as a political problem that needs to be addressed by the international community.”

URNWA employees clear a damaged street following an Israeli raid. (AFP)

Describing funding for UNRWA as “vital but not enough,” he urged international actors to turn their attention to Gaza’s postwar situation, the future of the enclave, and broader issues relating to the Palestinian question.

“Allowing Israeli hard-liners to continue their quest to liquidate the Palestinians will keep this region in turmoil,” said Al-Sharif. “The international community is realizing this. As are regional leaders, who will push the world to address the Israeli occupation once and for all.”

A man gestures near a pool of blood at an UNRWA warehouse and distribution centre in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, following an Israeli strike. (AFP)

Concurring, Baskin said that the recognition of a Palestinian state would negate the need for UNRWA altogether.

“Once Palestine is recognized, UNRWA’s responsibilities there become the state’s,” he said. “This is the future for the region — for Palestinian statehood to be recognized by the world. This is what needs to happen. Maybe this is too much for people to imagine.”

Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah

Updated 7 sec ago

Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah

Israel kills senior Gaza health official, tanks push deeper into Rafah
  • Israeli military said that the strike targeted Mohammad Salah, who it said was responsible for developing Hamas weaponry
  • killing of Hani Al-Jaafarawi brought the number of medical staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct 7 to 500
CAIRO: An Israeli air strike at a medical clinic in Gaza City killed the director of Gaza’s Ambulance and Emergency Department, the enclave’s health ministry said, while Israel’s military said the strike had killed a senior Hamas armed commander.
The health ministry said the killing of Hani Al-Jaafarawi brought the number of medical staff killed by Israeli fire since Oct 7 to 500. At least 300 others have so far been detained.
In a statement, the Israeli military said the strike targeted Mohammad Salah, who it said was responsible for developing Hamas weaponry.
“Salah was part of a project to develop strategic weaponry for the Hamas terrorist organization, and he commanded a number of Hamas terrorist squads that worked on developing weapons,” it said.
More than eight months into the fighting, international mediation backed by the United States has so far failed to bring a ceasefire agreement. Hamas says any agreement must bring an end the war, while Israel says it will agree only temporary pauses in fighting until Hamas is eradicated.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli forces which took control of the eastern, southern, and central parts of the city pursued their raid into the western and northern areas, said residents, describing heavy fighting.
On Sunday, residents had said Israeli tanks had advanced to the edge of the Mawasi displaced persons’ camp in the northwest of Rafah, forcing many families to leave northward to Khan Younis and to Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, the only city in the enclave where tanks have not yet invaded.
“The situation in Tel Al-Sultan, in western Rafah, remains very dangerous. Drones and Israeli snipers are hunting people who try to check on their houses, and tanks continue to take over areas overseeing Al-Mawasi further west,” said Bassam, a resident of Rafah.
“We know about people killed in the streets and we know and we see that dozens of houses had been destroyed by the occupation,” he told Reuters via a chat app.
Israel denies targeting civilians and blames Hamas for provoking civilian casualties by fighting among them, which Hamas denies.
The Israeli military said forces continued “intelligence-based targeted operations” in Rafah, locating weapons and rocket launchers and killing militants “who posed threats to them.”
In the north of the enclave, where Israel had said its forces completed operations months ago, residents said tanks had pushed back into Gaza City’s Zeitoun suburb and were pounding several areas there.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has left Gaza in ruins.
Since early May, fighting has focused on Rafah, on Gaza’s southern edge where around half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people had been sheltering after fleeing other areas.
Netanyahu said the phase of intense fighting against Hamas would end “very soon,” but that the war would not end until the Islamist group no longer controls the Palestinian enclave.
In an interview with Israel’s channel 14, he said forces based in Gaza would be freed to move to the north, where Israel has warned of a potential full-blown war against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which has struck the border region in what it says is solidarity with the Palestinians.
“After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of the forces north. And we will do this,” Netanyahu said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 14.

Netanyahu will only agree to ‘partial’ ceasefire, but not end Gaza war

Netanyahu will only agree to ‘partial’ ceasefire, but not end Gaza war
Updated 57 min 19 sec ago

Netanyahu will only agree to ‘partial’ ceasefire, but not end Gaza war

Netanyahu will only agree to ‘partial’ ceasefire, but not end Gaza war
  • Viability of US-backed peace proposal cast into doubt with Israeli leader’s comments
  • Netanyahu’s remarks could further strain Israel’s ties to the US, its top ally

TEL AVIV: The viability of a US-backed proposal to wind down the eight-month-long war in Gaza was cast into doubt on Monday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would only be willing to agree to a “partial” ceasefire deal that would not end the war, comments that sparked an uproar from families of hostages held by Hamas.
In an interview broadcast late Sunday on Israeli Channel 14, a conservative, pro-Netanyahu station, the Israeli leader said he was “prepared to make a partial deal — this is no secret — that will return to us some of the people,” referring to the roughly 120 hostages still held in the Gaza Strip. “But we are committed to continuing the war after a pause, in order to complete the goal of eliminating Hamas. I’m not willing to give up on that.”
Netanyahu’s comments did not deviate dramatically from what he has said previously about his terms for a deal. But they come at a sensitive time as Israel and Hamas appear to be moving further apart over the latest ceasefire proposal, and they could represent another setback for mediators trying to end the war.
Netanyahu’s comments stood in sharp contrast to the outlines of the deal detailed late last month by US President Joe Biden, who framed the plan as an Israeli one and which some in Israel refer to as “Netanyahu’s deal.” His remarks could further strain Israel’s ties to the US, its top ally, which launched a major diplomatic push for the latest ceasefire proposal.
The three-phased plan would bring about the release of the remaining hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But disputes and mistrust persist between Israel and Hamas over how the deal plays out.
Hamas has insisted it will not release the remaining hostages unless there’s a permanent ceasefire and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. When Biden announced the latest proposal last month, he said it included both.
But Netanyahu says Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities, and ensuring it can never again carry out an Oct. 7-style assault. A full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, where Hamas’ top leadership and much of its forces are still intact, would almost certainly leave the group in control of the territory and able to rearm. In the interview, Netanyahu said that the current phase of fighting is ending, but that didn’t mean the war was over.
During the initial six-week phase, the sides are supposed to negotiate an agreement on the second phase, which Biden said would include the release of all remaining living hostages, including male soldiers, and Israel’s full withdrawal from Gaza. The temporary ceasefire would become permanent.
Hamas appears concerned that Israel will resume the war once its most vulnerable hostages are returned. And even if it doesn’t, Israel could make demands in that stage of negotiations that were not part of the initial deal and are unacceptable to Hamas — and then resume the war when Hamas refuses them.
Netanyahu’s remarks reinforced that concern. After they were aired, Hamas said they represented “unmistakable confirmation of his rejection” of the US-supported deal, which also received the backing of the United Nations’ Security Council.
In a statement late Sunday after Netanyahu’s lengthy TV interview, the Palestinian militant group said his position was “in contrast” to what the US administration said that Israel had approved. The group said that its insistence that any deal should include a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Israeli forces out of the entire Gaza Strip “was an inevitable necessity to block Netanyahu’s attempts of evasion, deception, and perpetuation of aggression and the war of extermination against our people.”
Netanyahu shot back and in a statement from his office said Hamas opposed a deal. He said Israel would not withdraw from Gaza until all 120 hostages are returned.
Hamas welcomed the broad outline of the US plan but proposed what it said were “amendments.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during a visit to the region earlier this month, said some of Hamas’ demands were “workable” and some were not, without elaborating.
Netanyahu and Hamas both have incentives to keep the devastating war going despite the catastrophic toll it has had on civilians in Gaza and the mounting anger in Israel that after so many months Israel has not reached its aims of returning the hostages and defeating Hamas.
The families of hostages have grown increasingly impatient with Netanyahu, seeing his apparent reluctance to move ahead on a deal as tainted by political considerations. A group representing the families condemned Netanyahu’s remarks, which it viewed as an Israeli rejection of the latest ceasefire proposal.
“This is an abandonment of the 120 hostages and a violation of the state’s moral duty toward its citizens,” it said, noting that it held Netanyahu responsible for returning all the captives.
In its Oct. 7 cross-border assault, Hamas-led militants killed 1,200 people and took 250 people captive, including women, children and older people. Dozens were freed in a temporary ceasefire deal in late November and of the 120 remaining hostages, Israeli authorities say about a third are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory war has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. It has sparked a humanitarian crisis and displaced most of the territory’s 2.3 million population.

Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults

Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults
Updated 24 June 2024

Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults

Suspected Yemen Houthi attack targets vessel in waters further away than many previous assaults
  • Attack on Monday morning in the Gulf of Aden about 450 kilometers southeast of Nishtun, close to the border with Oman
  • Attack also just off to the northeast of Yemen’s Socotra Island, which is held by allies of the exiled government

DUBAI: A possible attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Monday targeted a ship further away from nearly all of the previous assaults they’ve launched in the Gulf of Aden, officials said, potentially part of a widening escalation by the group.
The attack comes as the US has sent the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower back home after an eight-month deployment in which it led the American response to the Houthi assaults. Those attacks have reduced shipping drastically through the route crucial to Asian, Middle East and European markets in a campaign the Houthis say will continue as long as the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip rages on.
The attack happened Monday morning in the Gulf of Aden some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Nishtun, a town in the far reaches of Yemen that’s close to the border with Oman, according to the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center. That region for long has been held by forces allied to Yemen’s exiled government, which has battled the Houthis since the rebels took the capital, Sanaa, back in 2014.

The attack was just off to the northeast of Yemen’s Socotra Island, also held by allies of the exiled government.
“The master of a merchant vessel reports an explosion in close proximity to the vessel,” the UKMTO said. “The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call.”
It offered no other immediate information about the attack.
Suspicion immediately fell on the Houthis, who did not immediately claim the assault. It can take the rebels hours or even days to acknowledge their attacks. Somali pirates have been known to operate in the region as well, though they typically seize vessels for ransom rather than launch attacks against them.
However, the attack happened near the outer reaches of the Gulf of Aden where it becomes the Arabian Sea and then ultimately the Indian Ocean. Of the more than 60 attacks launched by the Houthis since November that specifically targeted vessels, this would be one of the furthest.
In May, a Portuguese-flagged container ship came under attack by a drone in the far reaches of the Arabian Sea in an attack claimed by the Houthis. However, the distance at which it was struck led experts to question whether Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, could have launched the attack. The Houthis have claimed attacks later assessed to have been conducted by Iran, including the 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields that temporarily halved the kingdom’s energy production.
The Houthis have made a series of claims without evidence they’ve targeted vessels at even greater distances, even though there’s been no independent confirmation of any of those attacks actually taking place.
The rebels have fired off other missiles and drones in their campaign that has killed a total of four sailors. They have seized one vessel and sunk two since November. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes on May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.
The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain. However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war — including those bound for Iran.

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.
Updated 24 June 2024

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.

Gaza faces the threat of famine. How children starve.
  • One in three children in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished or suffering from wasting

Nearly 166 million people worldwide are estimated to need urgent action against hunger, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a global partnership which measures food insecurity.
That includes nearly everyone in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli military launched an offensive in October following an attack on Israel by Hamas militants. More than one million of Gaza’s inhabitants face the most extreme form of malnutrition – classified by the IPC as ‘Catastrophe or Famine.’
Seven-month-old Majd Salem is one of them.
Born on Nov. 1, three weeks after Israel launched the offensive, the child was being treated for a chest infection in the neonatal ICU at Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza on May 9. The nurse caring for him said he was suffering from severe malnutrition.
Majd was born at a healthy weight of 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds), said his mother, Nisreen Al-Khateeb.
By May, when he was six months old, his weight had barely changed to 3.8 kg, she said – around 3 kg less than would be expected for a baby his age.
Majd, whose eyes keenly followed visiting reporters in the ward, had to be given antibiotics for the infection and fortified milk to boost his weight, his mother said. Reuters was unable to trace them after May 21, when the hospital was evacuated following an Israeli raid.
One in three children in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished or suffering from wasting, according to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, citing data from its partners on the ground. Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run government media office, said their records showed 33 people had died of malnutrition in Gaza including 29 children, but added that the number could be higher.
COGAT, an Israeli defense ministry agency tasked with coordinating aid deliveries into Palestinian territories, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Israel’s foreign ministry in late May issued a detailed statement questioning the IPC’s methods of analysis, which it said omitted measures Israel had taken to improve access to food in Gaza. The IPC declined to comment.
The plight of Gaza’s children is part of a bigger trend. Globally last year more than 36 million children under 5 were acutely malnourished, nearly 10 million of them severely, according to the Global Report on Food Crises, a collaborative analysis of food insecurity by 16 international organizations.
The food shortage in Gaza, while particularly widespread, comes amid a broader spike in extreme hunger as conflicts around the world intensify.
Two other countries – South Sudan and Mali – each have thousands of people living in zones listed on the IPC website as facing famine. Another 35 – including Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – have many people in the IPC’s next-most acute category of food deprivation.
The IPC, a grouping of United Nations agencies, national governments and non-governmental organizations, is expected to update its assessment of the picture in war-torn Sudan in coming weeks. A preliminary projection reported by Reuters earlier this month said as many as 756,000 people in Sudan could face catastrophic food shortages by September.
Gaza’s hunger crisis is also a product of war. The Israeli military invaded the Strip in response to the Oct. 7 cross-border assault by Hamas on Israel. More than 37,000 Palestinians and nearly 1,500 Israelis have been killed since then, Gazan and Israeli tallies show.
The Israeli assault has destroyed swathes of Gazan farmland. In the early days of the war, Israel imposed a total blockade on Gaza. It later allowed some humanitarian supplies to enter but is still facing international calls to let in more.
The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, in seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, last month accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant of using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, among other alleged crimes. Netanyahu, calling that move “a moral outrage of historic proportions,” said Israel is fighting in full compliance with international law and taking unprecedented measures to ensure aid reaches those in need.
Israel has accused Hamas of stealing aid, which Hamas strongly denies. Israel has also said any distribution problems within Gaza are the fault of the international agencies.
Even when children survive, nutrition experts say food deprivation in the early years can do lasting damage.
A child’s brain develops at its fastest rate in the first two years of life. So even if they don’t starve to death or die from illness due to their weakened immune system, children may face delays in growth and development, said Aashima Garg, adviser on nutrition at UNICEF for the Middle East and North Africa.
“While they may be alive, they may not thrive that well in childhood and beyond,” she said.
Three families in Gaza told Reuters about their day-to-day diets, and four global health experts explained how such deprivation affects the growing body. Damage done in weeks manifests over years, they said.
“It can have a long-term impact on their immune system, their ability to absorb good nutrition, and on their cognitive and physical development,” said Hannah Stephenson, global head of nutrition and health at Save The Children, a non-profit.
Gaza has the most households globally in the most extreme stage of food poverty, according to the IPC, which classifies levels of hunger in five categories, the worst of which is famine.
Households in North Gaza, where Majd lives, are already suffering a full-blown famine, Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, said on May 5.
It can take months for the international measurement system to declare a famine. But the first damage to a child’s body is counted in days.
Nine out of 10 children aged 6 months to 2 years in Gaza live in severe child food poverty, a UNICEF survey in late May found. This means they are eating from two or fewer food groups a day, which UNICEF’s Garg said means grains or some form of milk.
This has been the case since December 2023, with only a slight improvement in April 2024, she said. As many as 85 percent of children of all ages did not eat for a whole day at least once in the three days before the survey was conducted.
The main cause of acute malnutrition in North Gaza is a lack of diversity in the diets of children and pregnant and breastfeeding women, according to a report in February 2024 from the Global Nutrition Cluster, a group of humanitarian agencies led by UNICEF.
This deficient intake, both prior to and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, harms both mothers and infants.
Abed Abu Mustafa, 49, a father of six, was still living in Gaza City in early April. He said people there already had eaten “almost every green plant we could find” and he hadn’t had meat or chicken for at least five months.
In Rafah in the south, Mariam, 33, a mother of five, has been living in a school along with two dozen of her relatives. She described a typical meal for her family before the conflict and what they are currently eating, shown below.
Before the war, Majd’s mother said an average family meal consisted of rice with chicken or meat, along with vegetables such as okra, cauliflower or peas. During the war, flour scarcity forced the family to make bread from animal feed. Recently, bread and canned goods like tuna and beans started to reappear, but these are not widely available.
Unable to find food to feed herself and forced to flee Israeli bombardment early in the war, Khateeb said she had found great difficulty in breastfeeding Majd.
She said she could find neither good quality baby formula nor clean water to mix it, so she fed him various types of powdered feed mixed with rainwater or brackish water from Gaza’s polluted wells, causing diarrhea.
“There is no chance to get proper food to have breastmilk, there is no meat, no proteins, no calcium, none of the elements that produce good milk for the child,” she said.
Garg, the UNICEF adviser, said the nutrition of breastfeeding mothers in Gaza was severely compromised, and with it their ability to produce milk.
“They are not eating fruits and vegetables. They are not eating meat. They are not having much milk,” she said. This lack of nutrients translates into poor quality breast milk. Diluted formula is not safe and risks diarrhea, which itself can be deadly.
Moderately malnourished mothers can still breastfeed, with their bodies effectively sacrificing their own nutritional needs to save the child. But severely malnourished women struggle.
Ahmed Al-Kahlout, the nurse who heads the unit, said Majd’s infection was due to malnutrition.
“There is no immunity, so any disease that the child catches in the shelters … afflicts the child with these severe lung infections,” he said.
Susceptibility to infections typically increases after two weeks with insufficient food.
The body’s consumption of its fat reserves eats away muscle tissue, which is why aid workers in the field use basic tape measures to assess the gravity of children’s conditions.
The tapes measuring Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) have been used for decades. If the upper arm’s circumference is 11.5 cm (4 1/2 inches) or smaller for a child between 6 months and 5 years old, the child is assessed as having severe acute malnutrition, according to standards drawn up by the United Nations.
MUAC screening data across Gaza since mid-January found more than 7,000 children aged 6 months to about 5 years were already acutely malnourished as of May 26, the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said.
This is how that looks.
Gaza has the most people at risk of starvation, but according to the IPC classifications, many millions are one step behind the enclave in food poverty.
The IPC categorizes the severity and scale of food insecurity and malnutrition. Readings of 3, 4 or 5 on the five-category scale require urgent action.
Households in Phase 3 are in “Crisis,” the IPC says. They have high or more than usual acute malnutrition, or can meet their minimum food needs but only by selling assets or through crisis measures.
Phase 4 is an “Emergency.” Households have either “very high” acute malnutrition and death rates or are only able to make up for the lack of food by taking emergency measures and selling assets.
Phase 5 is “Catastrophe” or “Famine.” Households have an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs and starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. An entire area is only classified as in Famine if high food insecurity comes with certain levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.
For the IPC, areas in Famine meet at least two of the following three criteria: * the area has at least 20 percent of households facing an extreme lack of food, * About one in three children there suffer from acute malnutrition, * Two adults or four children out of every 10,000 die each day due to outright starvation, or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease.

The IPC report issued in March projected that the entire population of the Gaza Strip would fall into Phases 3 to 5 between March and July. UN officials told Reuters they expect the next IPC analysis on Gaza to be released on June 25.
South Sudan and Mali are the other two other countries with households projected to fall into the same Phase 5 category as Gaza, based on the IPC’s latest published analyzes.
Overall, the three countries with the largest numbers of people at Phase 3 and above are Nigeria (25 million), Democratic Republic of Congo (23.4 million) and Sudan (17.7 million), according to the IPC website.
The IPC said its latest analysis of Sudan, conducted in December, was too outdated to include in the tables Reuters used for this chart.
As a consequence of severe malnutrition, various complications arise.
This is the impact of starvation after just three weeks. Like many children in Gaza, Majd’s lack of adequate food dates back months.

Europeans fear Middle East on brink after “unacceptable” Hezbollah threats

Europeans fear Middle East on brink after “unacceptable” Hezbollah threats
Updated 24 June 2024

Europeans fear Middle East on brink after “unacceptable” Hezbollah threats

Europeans fear Middle East on brink after “unacceptable” Hezbollah threats
  • Middle East is close to seeing the conflict expanding into Lebanon

PARIS: European foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Monday that the Middle East was close to seeing the conflict expanding into Lebanon just days after Iran-backed Hezbollah threatened EU member Cyprus.
“The risk of this war effecting the south of Lebanon and spilling over is every day bigger,” Borrell told reporters ahead of a foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
“We are on the eve of the war expanding.”
Iran-backed Hezbollah began attacking Israel shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault sparked the war in Gaza. Hezbollah has said it would not stop until there is a ceasefire in Gaza.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah last week said that nowhere in Israel would be safe if a full-fledged war breaks out between the two foes, and also threatened EU member Cyprus for the first time and other parts of the Mediterranean.
“It is absolutely unacceptable to make threats against a sovereign state of the European Union,” Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said. “We stand by Cyprus and we will all be together in all kinds of global threats coming from terrorist organizations.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the situation between Israel and Hezbollah was very worrying and she would travel to Lebanon soon.
“A further escalation would be a catastrophe for people in the region” she said.