Famine looms in Gaza: 1.1 million face catastrophic food insecurity

Seven months after conflict escalated, Gaza's entire population is experiencing food insecurity at crisis level or above. Safe and unimpeded aid must be allowed through.

DONATE to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal

Last updated 20 May 2024

What is happening in Gaza: the latest news

We are witnessing an unbearable human tragedy in Gaza. People here are facing starvation, and the health system has all but collapsed.

In Rafah, where an estimated 1.5 million people have sought shelter, children, women and men are living hour-to-hour with the pain of hunger. As conflict in Rafah intensifies, the situation for people on the ground is now desperate. British Red Cross’ Head of Middle East and North Africa, Rory Moylan, said:

“Over 1.5 million people are sheltering in Rafah, many living on the streets in makeshift shelters, with little access to food and water, and other basic essentials.

"Our colleagues at the Palestine Red Crescent Society are working tirelessly - from delivering emergency health assistance, to facilitating aid deliveries.

"But the reality is that we need a significant increase in humanitarian aid to match the needs. In addition, aid workers must have safe access to get this aid to where it is most needed. People’s lives are hanging in the balance.”

Please help people in Gaza

The UN says that famine in Gaza is now imminent. But through a huge, sustained effort over a long period of time, we can avert an even greater catastrophe. We're on the ground and ready. Let's be there for people in Gaza.

What must happen in Gaza?

Though Gaza is facing a crisis that will not be healed by aid alone, aid agencies must be able to bring in humanitarian assistance to Gaza at an increased level and much faster pace. They also need to deliver it safely.

This will vastly improve people’s chances of survival.

People’s lives are hanging in the balance. We must alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Gaza, and it is essential to safeguard civilian life and uphold human dignity.

Explaining the food crisis in Gaza

Humanitarian aid, containing vital supplies such as food, water, medication and shelter, is not getting into Gaza. A tiny trickle makes it through the Rafah border, but it's not enough for 2.2 million people.

Inflation is sky-high. Across the region, animal feed is replacing flour but even this is astronomical. In some parts of Gaza, it has gone up by 3,000%.

All this means that 2.2 million people are now facing extreme food insecurity.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an independent and internationally recognised body that uses evidence to project and classify food insecurity, now projects that a famine in Gaza is imminent. It's likely to happen between early April and May.

"People have a look of fear on their faces"

ICRC's William Schomburg describes scenes from northern Gaza, where conditions are desperate. People here cannot access food, water or medical care. 

Duration of video: 00:51

Summary of events in Gaza

  • Threat of famine in Gaza: the IPC projects that famine in Gaza is imminent and could happen between now and May
  • The death toll in Gaza currently stands at tens of thousands
  • 75,000 people have been injured in Gaza and 4,690 in the West Bank
  • President of the ICRC, Mirjana Spoljaric has called for political solutions to the crisis, stating that aid alone would not be enough

The impact of this violence has been affecting communities on both sides of the conflict, since it escalated on Saturday 7 October.

In Israel, more than 1,000 people died following the attack on 7 October. 

Are any hospitals open in Gaza?

The healthcare system in Gaza has all but collapsed. Hospitals continue to be caught in the midst of hostilities, which threaten all inside. The Palestine Red Crescent’s Al-Amal Hospital is one of the latest hospitals which has been forced to close.

As one of the previously few remaining medical facilities in the south, the closure of Al-Amal Hospital has profound implications for civilians and will put countless lives at risk.

It follows the catastrophic loss of most hospitals in the north due to shortages of fuel, medicines and medical equipment and a lack of safe access.

How many people are now homeless in Gaza?

There is nowhere safe for people to go. Over 75% of the total population of Gaza have been forced to leave their homes and desperately need food, water, shelter, and medical care.

Over the last five months, many people have fled the north, escaping to the south of Gaza. 1.5 million people are now living on less than 20 per cent of Gaza’s land in dire conditions in Rafah. 

Most of those now seeking shelter in Rafah did not arrive there directly, but have been displaced as many as five times. People are scared. They feel there is no safe place for them to go.

As more people are displaced from larger areas of Gaza, overcrowded areas are struggling to cope. Any service systems such as water, sanitation and electricity are barely existent.

Is food being delivered in Gaza?

Currently, there is not nearly enough food is getting into Gaza. Needs are vast, and a tiny trickle of aid is getting through.

Teams from the Palestine Red Crescent Society, Egyptian Red Crescent Society and ICRC stand ready to basics - food, water, shelter - to where it is needed.

But a greatly increased and regular flow of humanitarian aid to match the needs is essential. Humanitarian workers must have safe access to get this aid to where it is most needed.

Would maritime corridors in Gaza help get aid in?

We are very clear, the most efficient and effective way to deliver aid is generally by land. 

This is the most effective of way of getting sufficient aid to people who need it, at pace, and for humanitarian organisations to be able to distribute this aid safely across Gaza.

Before hostilities escalated, 400 to 500 aid trucks a day entered Gaza and the aid operations in Gaza are set up to facilitate the processing and distribution of this aid. The quickest way to get more aid into Gaza is to get more trucks passing through established road routes.

How is the Palestine Red Crescent supporting people in Gaza?

The Palestine Red Crescent Society is working day and night, risking, and losing, their lives to deliver assistance. They are mandated to receive and distribute this aid to where it is needed most in Gaza.

In the Gaza Strip PRCS teams have:

  • delivered more than 630,000 food parcels, blankets and mattresses
  • supported emergency power supply for 14 hospitals
  • provided health services to more than 200,000 people
  • established 13 camps for displaced people, sheltering 1,161 families
  • provided psychosocial support to 60,000 traumatised people

An ICRC medical team has been stationed at the European Gaza Hospital since late October. Two teams have rotated deployments and have carried out more than 1,625 surgical procedures.

In the West Bank PRCS teams are:

  • responded to 4,052 injuries
  • delivered food parcels to 42,840 people
  • provided cash assistance to help people recover from violence and  meet immediate needs

"We must always have hope": what it's like for Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues responding to the crisis in Israel and Gaza

How to help people in Gaza and Israel

The best way to help people affected in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory by donating to our emergency appeal.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society, and Magen David Adom in Israel, are rooted in the community and have been working to support everyone affected by the Israel-Gaza conflict since the violence escalated a week ago, and for many years before that.

Map of Israel and the Gaza Strip

What is the British Red Cross doing for Gaza?

The British Red Cross is directly supporting our partners in the Movement – including the Palestine Red Crescent Society – to respond to these urgent needs, providing funding as well as expert staff.

We have deployed nine psychosocial volunteers to Tel Aviv, Cairo and Cyprus alongside the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to support British Nationals in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

And we have also deployed logistics and managerial staff to the region to support with the deliver and distribution of aid and humanitarian assistance. 

We will do all we can to support people on both sides of the conflict for as long as we’re needed.

What is the Red Cross calling for in Gaza?

In a recent visit to Gaza, President of the ICRC, Mirjana Spoljaric was very clear that aid alone would not end this crisis.

She reiterated once more, that there must be political solutions:

'The ICRC is calling on parties and everyone who has an influence to deescalate and to ‘find other than military solutions to what is an immense suffering of the people on both sides’.

What is the Occupied Palestinian Territory?

The Occupied Palestinian Territory or OPT is an internationally accepted description, used by the United Nations. It refers to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). Together with the reference to Israel in our appeal, it covers all the areas affected by the current crisis.

What is the Gaza Strip?

The Gaza Strip is part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Its an enclave 25 miles long and six miles wide, bounded by the Mediterranean Sea, Israel, and Egypt.

More on the Israel and OPT crisis

Donate to the Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal 

Please help us provide support and vital aid.

Donate today

Stay informed: Israel-Gaza conflict

Israel-OPT map highlighted Occupied Territory Gaza focused 1084x610px AW (002)

What is happening in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory?

Find out what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and why we have launched our crisis appeal.

3 minutes
Split to show both Palestinian Red Crescent responding in Gaza and Magen David Adom responding in Israel.

Who are Magen David Adom and the Palestine Red Crescent?

You’ve probably heard about the Palestine Red Crescent and Magen David Adom in the news lately. If you’ve wondered how they relate to the Red Cross, here’s an explainer.

4 minutes
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Emblems

Explainer: what is the Red Cross doing to help hostages in Gaza?

As a neutral intermediary, the International Committee of the Red Cross plays an important practical role once the release of hostages has been agreed.

4 minutes