Famine is imminent in Gaza. We need a humanitarian ceasefire — now.

Melissa Fleming
4 min readMar 19, 2024


Ahmad, 5, waits his turn in the crowd to get a meal in Rafah, southern the Gaza Strip.
“I am here with my little brother waiting for our turn, I hope we can get some food, we are both hungry. ©UNICEF/UNI495577/ZAGOUT.”

Five months into the devastating war in Gaza, humanitarians are increasingly both heartbroken and frustrated as they face obstacles and danger to reach desperate people in near-impossible conditions. Only a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages can put an end to this nightmare.

My UN colleagues on the ground face an agonizing situation. Israeli border crossings in the North are closed and arduous inspections and restrictions prevent or slow truck deliveries to a daily trickle. Once aid trucks make it across the border, it is treacherous to move aid within Gaza, especially in the northern part of the strip.

We’ve seen a shocking deterioration in recent weeks. More than 2 million people in Gaza face extreme food insecurity — with the first deaths from malnutrition reported in recent days. There is serious risk of starvation, famine and disease across the territory.

Conditions on the ground are worsening by the day. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) — the leading global authority on food insecurity — has warned that one quarter of the population of Gaza is only one step away from famine.

The situation in Gaza is catastrophic, Famine is imminent in the northern governates and there is a risk of Famine across the rest of the Gaza Strip. The latest IPC findings show that Famine is projected to occur anytime between now and May 2024 in the northern governorates of Gaza and North Gaza.

Famine is now officially imminent in Gaza’s northern governorates and — unless the situation drastically changes — is projected to occur any time between now and May, according to the IPC’s latest report, released on Monday.

Conditions are hardly better in the south, where the majority of Gaza’s displaced population of 1.7 million people are seeking shelter. The IPC says that in a worst-case scenario, these governorates face a Risk of Famine through July 2024.

“Famine is a reality,” the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Matthew Hollingworth said. “We’re seeing the highest hunger level of anywhere else in the world in terms of total numbers. It’s all man-made. It’s shocking how bad things have gotten so quickly, because WFP and other humanitarians can’t reach starving people.

That looming famine is preventable, it can be stopped at any moment. The UN is braced and ready to deliver, and there is no shortage of food aid. Convoys upon convoys are waiting on Gaza’s borders — just a few kilometers away from starving families.

Yet we are now facing a mission impossible. The UN and our humanitarian partners have not been able to regularly pick up supplies from the crossing points due to safety concerns and a breakdown of law and order.

This conflict has already claimed the lives of 164 UN staff and their families — the largest single loss of life in our organization’s history.

Despite this, our colleagues have been taking significant risks to sustain the delivery of humanitarian supplies and save as many lives as they can, in the face of horrendous personal risk and trauma. But despite their superhuman efforts, it is just not enough.

The needs are astronomical. Humanitarians are urgently seeking to deliver children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers the nutrition they need to survive, and to provide enough for a reliable stock of essential supplies.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA)’s Dominic Allen told reporters upon his recent return from Gaza, “doctors are reporting that they no longer see normal-sized babies. What they do see though, tragically, is more stillborn births… and more neonatal deaths, caused in part by malnutrition, dehydration and complications.”

Our colleagues simply can’t deliver aid anywhere close to the scale needed while Gaza is under heavy bombardment. Our operations are also facing denials of access, delays, impediments, and multiple dangers including live fire.

The humanitarian community is ready — we know what must be done. Land crossings must be opened. Inspections must be simplified. Deconfliction processes — whereby humanitarian convoys are guaranteed safe passage — must be restored.

But above all, the violence must stop. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages in Gaza and a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure complete and unfettered access for humanitarian goods throughout Gaza.

No amount of dedication can keep millions of people alive, fed and protected while the bombs are falling, and the aid is choked off. A ceasefire is the only way to save lives and ease the unbearable suffering of civilians. This heartless, inhumane war must end.



Melissa Fleming

Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.