The discussions of famine in Gaza seem to be largely based on the March 18 IPC report, which projects famine top happen in two governorates of Gaza in March-May:

The IPC acute food insecurity analysis conducted in December 2023 warned of a risk that Famine may occur by the end of May 2024 if an immediate cessation of hostilities and sustained access for the provision of essential supplies and services to the population did not take place. Since then, the conditions necessary to prevent famine have not been met and the latest evidence confirms that Famine is imminent in the northern governorates and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024.

More recent declarations (although seemingly based on the same report), still characterize the famine as imminent rather than already taking place, e.g.:
Euronews (April 6): World Food Programme warns of imminent famine in northern Gaza

New York Times (April 5):

As famine looms over Gaza’s 2.2 million people, their tenuous survival has become a little harder for many this week. World Central Kitchen, the charity group founded by the chef José Andrés, suspended its relief efforts there after seven of its workers were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Monday. Since the start of the war in Gaza in October, the aid group said, it had delivered more than 43 million meals there.


The World Food Program, an arm of the United Nations, says that famine is imminent in northern Gaza. The number of people in the entire besieged enclave facing catastrophic levels of hunger is now at 1.1 million, according to the group.

So I am looking for a qualification: is there actually famine in Gaza (according to the UN and other international bodies) or is it only predicted/projected? Or are there different definitions of famine? Does the qualifier famine apply to all of Gaza or only parts of it (like the two above mentioned governorates)?

  • 2
    I think you've answered your own question. The IPC hasn't done a new evaluation so this is the most official information there is.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Apr 10 at 12:44
  • Note that politicians and journalists commonly use words like "imminent" or "threat of..." etc. to soften a statement, i.e. to word it in such a way that they cannot be proven definitely wrong. They do not necessarily mean the same thing you and I would, and being misunderstood is often an intentional outcome. e.g. something sounds very dramatic, but factually speaking is not or not yet.
    – Tom
    Commented Apr 11 at 13:45

2 Answers 2


No, the IPC has not yet declared famine (IPC Phase 5) in [northern] Gaza as a whole. That was merely their projection/forecast for the immediate future, based on their information at the time (about a month ago). The "current status" in their March update was merely phase 4 "Emergency" for all of Gaza

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However, their breakdown was that 55% of the population of northern Gaza was in Phase 5 (and anticipated to rise to 70%), while in Rafah only 25% were in Phase 5.

IPC Phase 4 (Emergency) : Households either have large food consumption gaps that are reflected in very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality; or are able to mitigate large food consumption gaps but only by employing emergency livelihood strategies and asset liquidation.

IPC Phase 5 (Catastrophe/ Famine) : Households have an extreme lack of food and/or cannot meet other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies. Starvation, death, destitution and extremely critical acute malnutrition levels are evident. For famine classification, area needs to have extremely critical levels of acute malnutrition and mortality.

Given that more aid has apparently reached the region since then (by Israeli/COGAT reports -- OCHA's are still not updated for March in their all-in-one database for easy comparison) I suspect that the IPC projected worsening has been averted, but time will tell.

If you care what the US said about this (alas only anonymously):

Famine is quite possibly present in parts of the northern Gaza Strip, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday, adding that a scarcity of food convoys was an obstacle to getting more aid into the Palestinian enclave under Israeli siege.

"While we can say with confidence that famine is a significant risk in the south and center but not present, in the north, it is both a risk and quite possibly is present in at least some areas," the official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

Statement apparently made on March 29 or thereabout.

Yesterday though (April 9), at least the head of USAID acknowledged that the change in the amount of aid was noticeable:

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power acknowledged on Tuesday that humanitarian aid into Gaza had risen sharply in the past few days, and said the higher level of aid should be sustained and increased further.

"We are seeing a sea change, which we hope is sustained and expanded upon," Power said at hearing of the U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance spending.

Nonetheless, she added that:

"We have famine-like conditions in Gaza and supermarkets filled with food within a couple of kilometers away," she said at the hearing, which focused on the agency's fiscal 2025 budget request.

This is a bit more technical, but perhaps worth delving into here. For famine to be declared, according to the IPC, it's not enough to have even 100% of the households in "IPC Phase 5 (catastrophe)". But you additionally need specific crude mortality figures:

IPC Phase 5 is referred to as “Catastrophe” when classifying a household and “Famine” when classifying an area. [...]

Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) -- Occurs when a household has an extreme lack of food and/or other basic needs even after full employment of coping strategies.

Famine (IPC Phase 5) -- Occurs when at least 20 percent of the population in a given area have an extreme lack of food; the Global Acute Malnutrition prevalence (measured by weight-for-height z-score) exceeds 30 percent; and mortality (measured by the Crude Death Rate) exceeds 2 people per 10,000 per day.

(Some other agencies like MSF have called the latter bit [of any] standard i.e. a fixed mortality threshold questionable, but it is what it is.)

It looks like the last time the IPC declared a famine was in Somalia in 2011 (more specifically, just in two regions in the south of the country. Affected population according to the IPC brochure: about half a million. This is actually a lot less than what Wikipedia indicates, based on the initial IPC projection for that.) Actually, there was a more recent one: South Sudan in 2017, in a small central region (Leer and Mayendit counties--population affected 80,000 according to the IPC brochure).

enter image description here

  • 5
    As discussed in this paper it's pretty common for the media to misinterpret IPC reports, generally in the direction of worst assumptions/outcomes. See the paras that start with "We still observe a disconnect ..." Commented Apr 10 at 14:54
  • So the report is saying that currently 55% of the population in Northern Gaza are in famine/ catastophe, the remaining 45% are somewhat better (presumably mostly in phase 4). But they have not declared a famine in Northern Gaza, that would require more (100% ?) people to be in phase 5.
    – quarague
    Commented Apr 10 at 16:43
  • 4
    @quarague: it's somewhat complicated. For famine to be declared, people have to be dying at a specific rate (or greater). You could even have 100% in IPC phase 5 (catastrophe), but not have IPC phase 5 (famine) declared. Admittedly, this is a pretty confusing classification system, in that respect. Commented Apr 10 at 17:28

Your quote in the question has the answer in there:

Of the 2.2 million people in Gaza, 1.1 million are currently suffering from famine, the other 1.1 million currently are not.

So currently it is half and half. In the Northern part of Gaza the proportion currently suffering from famine is somewhat higher, in the south near Rafah it is somewhat lower.

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