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US Acknowledges Famine Already Taking Place In Gaza Strip

11.04.2024 18:27

'So famine is already occurring there?' Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro asks USAID administrator. "That is, yes," she replied.

A senior Biden administration official has publicly acknowledged for the first time that famine is already occurring in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power was asked during congressional testimony Wednesday about an analysis from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which said in mid-March that "the latest evidence confirms that Famine is imminent in the northern governorates of the Gaza Strip and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024."

"The methodology that the IPC used is one that we had our experts scrub. It's one that's relied upon in other settings, and that is their assessments. And we believe that assessment is credible," Power said.

"So famine is already occurring there?" Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro asked Power. "That is, yes," she replied.

Power said that prior to Oct. 7 when a Hamas-led attack on Israel killed roughly 1,200 people, sparking the current war, the rate of child malnutrition was virtually 0%. That number has ballooned to roughly 33%, based on US assessments. She acknowledged, however, that due to access restrictions, the real figure is hard to discern.

"It is so hard to move around in Gaza because the access challenges that give rise, in part, to the malnutrition are so severe. It is also hard to do the kind of scaled assessments that we would wish to do," she said.

"In terms of, you know, actual severe acute malnutrition for under-fives, that rate was 16% in January, and became 30% in February and we're awaiting the March numbers, but we expect it to [have gotten] markedly worse," she added.

While other US officials have been sounding the alarm over the potential for famine in Gaza, including Power who said in March that it is "imminent," her comments are the first direct confirmation from the Biden administration that it is already taking place.

The acknowledgment is likely to further embolden predominantly Democratic calls for the US administration to condition aid to Israel. Many of the calls have focused on Section 620I of the Foreign Assistance Act.

The 1961 law prohibits the US from providing aid to any country "when it is made known to the President that the government of such country prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance."

President Joe Biden issued his first public warning to Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu last week that the future of his administration's support for Tel Aviv's war on Gaza depends on the implementation of major reforms.

Biden said Wednesday that while the amount of aid has increased since that call, Netanyahu needs to be doing more to ensure it improves further, including by opening the Erez crossing point along the northern Gaza border. -

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