Skip to content

Famine Is in North Gaza and Spreading, Says World Food Program Director

Director of the World Food Program, Cindy McCain. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The executive director of the World Food Program Cindy McCain said in a “Meet the Press” interview aired today that “There is famine—full-blown famine in the north, and it’s moving its way south.” The interviewer Kristen Welker asked McCain to repeat. “You are saying there is full-blown famine in northern Gaza?” McCain replied, “Yes, I am. Yes, I am.”

She also said that the statement was not an “official declaration” of famine—that is usually done by the United Nations jointly with the affected country. She said the assessment was “based on what we have seen and what we have experienced on the ground. It is horror. It is so hard to look at, and it is so hard to hear, also. I am so hoping we can get a ceasefire and begin to feed these people, especially in the north, in a much faster fashion.”

In releasing its food security report on March 18, which classified food insecurity in Gaza since December 2023, the WFP defined famine: “there is a famine when three conditions come together in a specific geographic area, whether a town, village, city, even a country…

“• At least 20%% of the population in that particular area are facing extreme levels of hunger;

“• 30% of the children in the same place are wasted, or too thin for their height; and

“• The death—or mortality—rate has doubled, from the average, surpassing two deaths per 10,000 daily for adults and four deaths per 10,000 daily for children.”

The March 18 special report overview on Gaza specified: “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.”

McCain’s “Meet the Press” interview was previewed Saturday morning May 4 in the New York Times, and since by other media. The Times article, like BBC’s report, included a reminder of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s statement last October of a “complete siege” of Gaza—"no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel"—and that the IDF destroyed Gaza’s port, bombed its farms and restricted fishing. The intention to create famine is deliberate on Israel’s part, and McCain’s statement discredits recent Israeli government claims that it is getting aid into Gaza.