Confronting the manufactured famine in Gaza, Palestine

 

It is our duty as healthcare professionals to prevent humanitarian crises. Yet, we are currently witnessing a preventable famine unfold in Gaza, Palestine. On 18 March 2024, The Famine Review Committee (FRC) of The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification described the Gazan population as the “highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that they have ever classified for any given area.” We are writing to underline the relationship between the ongoing famine, throughout Gaza, and the Israeli military offensive, which has materialized this “man-made” disaster. Unless hostilities cease and access to essential aid is restored, the FRC predicts a famine for the entirety of the Gazan population by June 2024.

In violation of international humanitarian law, Gaza has remained besieged for more than 16 years and without access to adequate nutrition, water, and fuel due to the air, land, and sea-blockade. Gaza has seen an obstruction of food trucks entering the strip; as well as direct attacks on aid workers, humanitarian convoys, and healthcare and sanitation infrastructure since October 2023. The capacity for treatment of malnutrition in Gaza is severely undercut because Gaza’s healthcare system has been rendered almost nonfunctional. It is overwhelmed by the burden of residential bombings and civilian casualties, with at least 300 healthcare workers having been killed and over 212 detained since October 2023. Such compounding disruptions to the systems of healthcare delivery heighten the risk of preventable communicable disease crises, which also further exacerbate malnutrition. Despite warnings of this impending famine as early as December 2023 in the FRC’s primary analysis, at least 27 Palestinians, including 21 children, have already died of malnutrition with hundreds of thousands at risk of malnutrition and resulting famine.

From a humanitarian perspective, the evidence is clear: the loss of life caused by the famine in Gaza is entirely preventable and has a political solution. We call on all healthcare professionals and organizations to support the global call for: an immediate and sustained ceasefire with restoration of humanitarian access to Gaza; and an end to the blockade and occupation by Israel. Our values as healthcare professionals demand this of us. Of note, our aggregate opinions and arguments presented herein are independent of our listed affiliations.

About the authors: 

  • Harun Khan is a medical doctor and public health researcher at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Nina Al-Saadi is a vascular surgery registrar and doctoral research fellow in the West Midlands Deanery, NHS England
  • Varun Kejriwal Goel is a psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • Karan Malik is a final year medical student at The New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Yazan Nagi is a psychiatrist and public health researcher at SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Competing interests: None

Handling Editor: Neha Faruqui

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