Blog Post

Crisis in Gaza: The Nexus of Conflict and Food Insecurity


Nearly 80 percent of Gaza’s population has been displaced in the ongoing conflict, which has entered its second month. A recent World Food Programme rapid food security assessment conducted during the temporary humanitarian pause in fight in late November has found evidence of unprecedented humanitarian crisis, including widespread food insecurity.


One of the world’s most densely populated regions, the Gaza Strip is composed of a 25-mile-long by 6-mile-wide piece of land bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Israel to the north, and Egypt to the south. More than 2 million people live in the territory.

Since 2007, Gaza has been under a blockade by Israel and Egypt that has restricted the movement of people and goods. According to the United Nations, more than 80 percent of Gazans lived in poverty even before the current conflict; unemployment levels as of the mid-2023 stood at nearly 50 percent.   Access to clean water and electricity have also long been at crisis levels. Nearly 80 percent of Gazans are dependent on aid due to the blockade and ongoing hostilities with Israel.

With the outbreak of this new round of widespread conflict in October, conditions have deteriorated further. In addition to the shockingly high levels of internal displacement, the ongoing conflict has also caused widespread destruction of key infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, water and sanitation infrastructure, telecommunications and generators, roads, residences, and marketplaces.

Drivers of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity in Gaza has increased since October in both the Northern and the Southern governates. The increased food insecurity is being driven by several pathways:

  1. Disruption of food distribution as a result of the halt in delivery of commercial goods, lack of fuel, and damage to infrastructure. At the end of November, the majority of the WFP’s contracted shops were closed due to lack of food supplies, damage from the conflict, or security concerns. Very limited food quantities are available in the remaining shops, with rice and vegetable oil being the most readily available foods
  2. Reduction of food access due to limited supplies, high prices, and disruptions to livelihoods. Wheat flour prices have risen by 50 percent from the start of the conflict, while vegetable prices have risen by 200 percent and fuel by over 500 percent. Gaza’s five flour mills have ceased operations due to lack of fuel.
  3. Economic instability and growing poverty. With conflict and displacement disrupting livelihoods, household purchasing power has been severely diminished. As more households slip into poverty and food prices continue to rise, much of the population is unable to afford the little food that is available in markets.
  4. Limited flows of humanitarian aid. Only one border crossing (the Rafah crossing with Egypt) remains open to humanitarian aid. Since early October, 1,249 trucks carrying food aid have reached Gaza. However, this is far less than what is needed to provide stable, sufficient food assistance. The WFP reports that the Rafah border crossing does not have the capacity to support the 100 daily food aid trucks that would be needed to meet Gazans’ minimum food security needs.
  5. Lack of access to healthcare services. Gaza’s health system has been decimated, with severe shortages of medical supplies and widespread damage to hospitals and clinics. The inability to access healthcare services to treat injury or illness impacts the population’s effective utilization of food consumed.

Impact on Food Security

In the Northern governances, 82 percent of surveyed households reported poor food consumption levels in October and November, and 15 percent reported borderline food consumption levels. The southern governate, where most of the population has been displaced to, 38 percent of surveyed households reported poor food consumption and 46 percent reported borderline consumption. Displaced households in the southern governates are experiencing higher rates of poor food consumption than resident households.

These reduced food consumption rates have translated into rising hunger. In the Northern governates, nearly half of surveyed households experienced severe or very severe hunger in the previous 30 days, while 48 percent experienced moderate hunger. In the Southern governates, severe and very severe hunger has impacted one-third of surveyed households, while 53 percent of households reported moderate hunger. As with food consumption, displaced populations are experiencing higher hunger rates than resident households.

Nearly 90 percent of surveyed households in the Northern governates and 54 percent in the Southern governates reported going without food for at least one 24-hour period in the past four weeks due to a lack of food.

Similarly, almost 95 percent of households in the Northern governates and 78 percent in the Southern governates have needed to employ extreme coping strategies due to lack of food. These include:

  1. Relying on less expensive and/or less desired foods.
  2. Borrowing food from relatives and friends.
  3. Limiting portion sizes.
  4. Reducing consumption by adults so children can eat.
  5. Reducing number of meals per day.

These food security impacts are particularly heavy on already vulnerable groups, such as women, children, and displaced populations. These groups face even more difficulty accessing sufficient and nutritious foods.

Response and Relief Efforts

Humanitarian aid has been and will continue to be crucial to preventing even more widespread and severe food insecurity and hunger in Gaza throughout the continuing conflict.

Forty-six percent of households in the Southern governates reported being reliant on food aid for their primary food source. In the Northern governates, humanitarian organizations face even greater challenges reaching in-need households due to fighting and infrastructure destruction; as a result, only 32 percent of households reported relying on food aid, instead turning to relatives and friends for their main food source. As more of the northern population is displaced into the Southern governates, however, pressure on food aid sources will increase.

The WFP provided in-kind and cash-based food assistance during the seven-day pause in fighting in mid-December to around 250,000 people, including internally displaced populations in designated shelters and host communities. However, As mentioned, the number of trucks carrying food aid through the Rafah border crossing is far below what is needed to meet food security needs. In addition, fuel shortages throughout Gaza have slowed and stopped the delivery of food aid and other critical goods.


The food security situation in Gaza is dire and is likely to continue to deteriorate in the coming weeks and months as the conflict rages on. Strong political will to allow for greater humanitarian access to Gaza’s in-need populations, as well as increased investments in food aid, will be critical to prevent widespread famine and mortality in the region.

Sediqa Zaki is a Research Analyst with IFPRI's Markets, Trade and Institutions Division. Sara Gustafson is a communications consultant.