Skip to content Skip to footer

“Gaza Has Become a Death Zone,” World Health Organization Director Warns

Officials have warned that Israel’s starvation campaign threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Palestinian women and children look on as they stand at the structure of a heavily damaged building on February 22, 2024, following overnight Israeli air strikes in Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

As the official death toll from Israel’s genocide of Gaza approaches 30,000 and hundreds of thousands are facing the imminent risk of dying from starvation, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that Gaza is no longer a habitable place, but a “death zone.”

At a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters that conditions are only going to worsen as Israel continues to block humanitarian aid from entering the region and continues its attacks on Rafah, where the majority of the population has been forcibly relocated after months of Israeli raids starting in the northern part of the region.

“Gaza has become a death zone,” Tedros said. “Much of the territory has been destroyed. More than 29,000 people are dead; many more are missing, presumed dead; and many, many more are injured.”

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has killed at least 12,300 Palestinian children so far. Over 7,000 people are missing under the rubble, while 70,000 people have been injured, according to official counts.

The deeming of Gaza as a “death zone” by Tedros comes after the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned in January that Israel has rendered Gaza “uninhabitable,” with its population “witnessing daily threats to their very existence.”

While death counts up until this point have largely been driven by Israel’s bombardment and ground assault, experts are warning that the humanitarian crisis manufactured by Israeli officials, with the help of global powers like the U.S., will soon claim an enormous amount of lives at an even quicker pace than the relentless bombing.

Of particular urgency is Israel’s starvation campaign, which experts on famine have said is the worst in modern times. This week, the Gaza Government Media Office warned that over 700,000 Palestinians in the northern part of the region are on the brink of death by starvation — or about a third of the population of Gaza.

UN officials have explicitly warned that the hunger crisis is slated to cause an “explosion” of deaths of children in Gaza, with one in six children under the age of 2 being acutely malnourished, UNICEF, WHO and the World Food Program (WFP) said in a joint statement this week. The agencies added that over 90 percent of children between six months and 23 months are facing “severe food poverty.”

Tedros expressed concern over the fact that groups like WFP have been forced to stop their aid deliveries in the north due to Israel’s campaign to dismantle and attack humanitarian aid across the region. Recently, Israel has been cracking down even further on humanitarian aid; earlier this month, for instance, Israeli forces allowed a UN convoy of 10 trucks carrying food to enter Gaza and subsequently attacked the convoy, destroying the food inside, a recent CNN report found.

Israeli forces have made aid workers into targets, groups have reported. Two members of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) were killed by Israeli forces in Khan Yunis on Tuesday, while other MSF workers and their families had to wait hours after the shelling to receive medical attention because of other shelling in the area.

Israel’s killing of the workers came on the same day that the U.S. cast the sole vote in the UN Security Council to veto a ceasefire in Gaza, rejecting the cessation of Israel’s massacre in Gaza in favor of yet more Palestinian death, disease, starvation and ethnic cleansing.

We have 1 day left to raise $25,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.