GENEVA: More than half of Gaza’s agricultural land, crucial for feeding the war-ravaged territory’s hungry population, has been degra­ded by conflict, satellite images analysed by the United Nations show.

The data reveals a rise in the destruction of orchards, field crops and vegetables in the Palesti­nian enclave, where hunger is widespread after eight months of Israeli bombardment.

The World Health Organisation warned on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing “catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions”.

Using satellite imagery taken between May 2017 and 2024, United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) found that 57 per cent of Gaza’s permanent crop fields and arable lands essential for food security had shown a significant decline in density and health. “In May 2024, crop health and density across the Gaza Strip showed a marked decline compared to the average of the previous seven seasons,” UNOSAT said on Thursday.

“This deterioration is attributed to conflict-related activities, including razing, heavy vehicle movement, bombing, and shelling.” The decline, UNOSAT said, marked a 30pc increase in damaged agricultural land since it published its last analysis in April.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebre­yesus said on Wednesday there were more than 8,000 children under five years old in Gaza who had been treated for acute malnutrition.

As well as damage to crop fields and orchards, greenhouses across the Gaza Strip had also sustained significant damage, UNOSAT said.

Published in Dawn, June 14th, 2024

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