Older people will be among the first to fall if famine is declared in Gaza


HelpAge International is deeply alarmed by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification’s (IPC) Acute Food Insecurity Analysis findings, which state that “famine is imminent in the northern governorates [of Gaza] and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024”.

Older people are among those bearing the brunt of this man-made disaster. Malnutrition poses serious health risks for older people and can exacerbate their pre-existing health conditions, weaken their immune systems, and prolong the time needed for recovery.

Older people in Gaza were already living in precarious conditions before the latest escalation; 45% of older people were going to bed hungry at least one night a week. The current crisis has further exacerbated these challenges, pushing older people and their families to the brink of survival. The IPC report highlights that “social cohesion in Gaza is strained, exposing the most vulnerable, such as children – particularly those who are unaccompanied, women, the elderly, the chronically ill, and people living with disabilities to extreme levels of food and water deprivation”.

The looming threat of famine in Gaza poses a grave risk to its older population. Without swift intervention, older people, already vulnerable to malnutrition, face starvation and death. This must not happen.

Chris Mclvor, HelpAge International’s Regional Representative for the Middle East and Eurasia

While Gaza’s population is grappling with catastrophic food insecurity, older people will encounter formidable obstacles to obtaining food. With restrictions on supplies entering the Strip, the methods being used to provide limited aid, especially airdrops, present specific challenges for older people and people with disabilities to access much needed food and basic items. In addition, families are being forced to make harrowing decisions about who will eat when they do find food, with older people often forgoing their share in favour of their children and grandchildren.

Today’s announcement is a tragic indictment of the international community’s inability to prevent and mitigate a crisis on this scale. It is also a stark reminder of the urgent need for a full and immediate ceasefire, in addition to an end to the use of starvation as a weapon of war against civilians, and full, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access to provide critically needed life-saving support across the whole of Gaza.