More aid is getting into Gaza, but risk of famine endures

Rafah and other parts of southern Gaza haven’t escaped bombardment but are proving easier for aid to reach than areas farther north. MOHAMMED ABED/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Rafah and other parts of southern Gaza haven’t escaped bombardment but are proving easier for aid to reach than areas farther north. MOHAMMED ABED/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


Affordable vegetables and freshly baked bread are available in northern Gaza for the first time in months. Relief workers say this isn’t enough.

More aid has been entering Gaza through the south of the enclave and a newly opened crossing in the north, but relief workers said this still isn’t enough to avert a looming famine.

Weeks since deadly strikes against World Central Kitchen aid workers spurred Israel into action, affordable vegetables and freshly baked bread are now available in northern Gaza for the first time in months. Israel in recent days has enabled more aid trucks to reach Gaza, has opened a crossing into the north directly from Israel and has approved more flour destined for the strip through its port of Ashdod.

President Biden, in a tense phone call in the aftermath of the April 1 World Central Kitchen attack, urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take immediate steps to address the humanitarian suffering in Gaza. Biden earlier this week said many more supplies have been moving into Gaza as a result.

“In the 12 days following my call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, 3,000 trucks with food and supplies moved into Gaza," Biden said. “It’s still not enough. We continue to urge Israel to ramp up land, air and sea deliveries for Gaza civilians."

The United Nations, which oversees the bulk of the humanitarian response within the enclave, warns that these efforts, while welcome, don’t go far enough to avert a famine in Gaza, home to 2.2 million people.

“The problem is not just about food," said Andrea De Domenico, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Gaza and the West Bank. “It’s much bigger than simply bringing in flour and baking loaves of bread or pita. It is much more complex. There is an initial sign of good intention but they are not where they should be."

Around 185 aid trucks on average have entered Gaza from two southern crossings in the first half of April, compared with 157 in the two weeks prior, according to a U.N. tracker. The figures don’t include the number of trucks that have entered Gaza through the newly opened northern crossing. The overwhelming majority of aid reaches Gaza from two crossings in the south near the town of Rafah, and often struggles to reach those who need it most further north. Before the war started, an average of 500 trucks carrying commercial goods and aid entered the strip every day.

The main bottleneck is distribution within Gaza, humanitarian workers say. The widespread destruction caused by the war, ongoing fighting in north and central Gaza, movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli military and looting by desperately hungry residents are all part of the problem. So is the lack of drivers and vehicles needed to carry the aid through the strip. Vast amounts of goods are stuck for long periods in holding areas as a result.

The humanitarian crisis is especially severe in the north, which has been effectively split from the rest of the strip since early on in the war. The Israeli military tightly controls access from south to north through checkpoints along central Gaza, allowing limited amounts of food and other essential goods and largely barring other movements.

But, in recent days, residents of northern Gaza have begun to see a change.

Nida Mdokh, 31, said cereals, fresh vegetables and other food products that were previously either unavailable or only available at exorbitant prices have started to reappear on the market.

“There was a time when we had to eat animal feed mixed with white flour. I used to eat less than I needed just to save good bread for my three children," said Mdokh, who lives in Gaza City with her children and her sisters.

“Rice and pasta are back, as are vegetables and fruits, even if they are still expensive," she said. She bought meat for the first time in months, paying 100 shekels—about $26—for a kilogram of frozen chicken. “Today, I cooked chicken breasts with potatoes and lemons. Chicken is so expensive, but I want my children to eat healthy food."

The price for 25 kilograms of flour, sold for as much as $530 in the past, has fallen to $18, she said. One kilogram of tomatoes now costs a 10th of what it used to, or around $3.95.

A new entry point from Israel into northern Gaza, near the Israeli village of Zikim, is helping. So far it has been used four times by convoys to bring food, including a mission by private contractors escorted by the Israeli military. Overall, the Israeli military said that it coordinated access for around 340 aid trucks to the north, through various entry points, since April 12. The World Food Program, the U.N.’s main food agency, in recent days was able to deliver fuel and wheat flour to two bakeries in Gaza City, enabling them to reopen. Israel has pledged to eventually help open some 20 bakeries in northern Gaza.

But only a continuous, sustained delivery of food and other goods can make a real difference—and time is running out, humanitarian workers say. The number of people facing catastrophic levels of hunger in northern Gaza already meets some of the criteria of a full-blown famine, according to estimates released last month by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or IPC, an international initiative supported by the U.N. and tasked with assessing the risk of famine around the world.

Write to Margherita Stancati at

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