|CNN — Famine is “around the corner” as people in Gaza face the “highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded,” according to UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths.
Citing a death toll in the tens of thousands, attacks on medical facilities and a lack of functioning hospitals, Griffiths said in a statement issued Friday that Gaza had become “a place of death and despair.”
“Hope has never been more elusive,” he added.
A public health disaster is unfolding as infectious diseases spread in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over, Griffiths said, adding that around 180 Palestinian women “are giving birth daily amidst this chaos.”
“Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on,” Griffiths said in the statement issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Tens of thousands of Palestinians have died since Israel launched its war on Hamas in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, and up to 1.9 million people have been displaced since the beginning of the war, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Israel launched the war in response to Hamas’ murderous rampage on October 7 in which about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage.
“Meanwhile, rocket attacks on Israel continue, more than 120 people are still held hostage in Gaza, tensions in the West Bank are boiling, and the specter of further regional spillover of the war is looming dangerously close,” said Griffiths, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Young children face high risks of severe malnutrition as famine conditions increase, according to UNICEF. Survivors who spoke to CNN from the southern city of Rafah said basic necessities like fruits and vegetables have become unaffordable.
Griffiths went on to urge parties to “meet all their obligations under international law, including to protect civilians and meet their essential needs, and to release all hostages immediately,” adding that the international community should “use all its influence to make this happen.”
“We continue to demand an immediate end to the war, not just for the people of Gaza and its threatened neighbors, but for the generations to come who will never forget these 90 days of hell and of assaults on the most basic precepts of humanity,” he added.
“This war should never have started,” Griffiths said. “It’s long past time for it to end.”