Last month, a United Nations report on hunger described a catastrophic situation in Gaza, where more than ninety per cent of the population has been facing “acute food insecurity,” and where “virtually all households are skipping meals every day.” Much of Gaza is at risk of famine in the next several months. Parents have been going without food to insure that their kids have at least something to eat; where food is available, moreover, prices have skyrocketed, making it inaccessible even for middle-class families. The report noted, “This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity” ever recorded “for any given area or country.” I recently spoke by phone with Arif Husain, the chief economist at the United Nations World Food Program, which was one of the partner organizations that compiled the report. The W.F.P. also collects data on hunger around the world and delivers food to needy people. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed what the people of Gaza are currently facing, the reasons many cannot access food, and why this crisis is so unprecedented.

Could you describe the food-access situation in Gaza right now?

The bottom line is that, in Gaza, pretty much everybody is hungry at the moment. In the food-security-analysis business, we do something called I.P.C., or Integrated Phase Classification. This is an exercise that has about twenty-three partners, including nineteen U.N. agencies and international N.G.O.s and about four donors. This group analyzes the food-security situation. And, on the basis of that, it presents a report, which is independent. It is not one agency or one entity. There’s a consensus-based analysis. This exercise is done in between forty and fifty countries worldwide that may have a food-security issue, whether it is because of conflict or climate or anything else. What an I.P.C. does in any given location is put people in five different classifications. I.P.C. Phase 1 is that everything is fine; I.P.C. Phase 2 is that people are stressed in terms of their food-security situation; I.P.C. Phase 3 is that people are, in fact, in a food-security crisis; I.P.C. Phase 4 is that people are in food-security emergencies; and the last phase is called the famine, or catastrophe, phase. Now, the same analysis was done for Gaza, which came out in December, and, according to that, pretty much the entire population of 2.2 million people is in a food-security crisis or a worse situation.

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