USAID chief says famine has begun in Gaza in Senate hearing marked by protests

Washington DC - United States Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power admitted that Gaza is already experiencing famine during a Senate hearing on Wednesday.

USAID Administrator Samantha Power speaks during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 10, 2024.
USAID Administrator Samantha Power speaks during a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on April 10, 2024.  © IMAGO / SOPA Images

"USAID teams have been working day and night to address the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where nearly the entire population is living under the threat of famine," Power shared in an opening statement before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

The hearing followed cables USAID sent to the National Security Council warning that famine had already set in in parts of Gaza.

"Do you think it is plausible or likely that parts of Gaza, and in particular northern Gaza, are already experiencing famine?" Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas asked during questioning on Wednesday.

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In her affirmative response, Power cited an analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

"That is their assessment and we believe that assessment is credible," she said.

"So famine is already occurring there?" Castro replied.

"That is – yes," Power answered.

Samantha Power testifies to malnutrition in Gaza

Palestinian children receive cooked food rations in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip amid widespread hunger in the Israeli occupied territory.
Palestinian children receive cooked food rations in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip amid widespread hunger in the Israeli occupied territory.  © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

Power – the author of Pulitzer Prize-winning "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide – went on to note the grave state of malnutrition and dehydration among Gaza's children.

"In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to October 7th was almost zero, and it is now one in three – one in three kids," she said.

The alarming figures come as Israel has waged a six-month bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza, killing at least 33,545 people. A brutal blockade on the occupied territory has left many at threat of starvation and without access to health care.

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The International Court of Justice has declared there is a "plausible" case Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

The United States has responded to growing food insecurity by announcing airdrops and a temporary seaport to deliver aid to Gaza, while at the same time cutting off funding for UNRWA – a United Nations agency providing critical humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

The Biden administration also continues to arm Israel – sending over 100 weapons shipments since October in addition to billions of dollars in military aid per year.

Samantha Power sees protests during Senate testimony

CODEPINK activists daily walk the halls of Congress urging a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to US military support for Israel.
CODEPINK activists daily walk the halls of Congress urging a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to US military support for Israel.  © SAUL LOEB / AFP

The US government's continued military and diplomatic support for Israel has sparked unrelenting protests from the American public – including numerous interruptions during Power's testimony.

"Stop talking about it as a humanitarian crisis and start talking about it for what it is," urged one activist named Helen with the feminist anti-war organization CODEPINK.

Helen was dragged out of the room and arrested for speaking out during Wednesday's hearing.

"Our country is committing genocide and as long as the people in charge continue to ignore the fact that this is a genocide, the American people will continue to act like lemmings and follow them and we'll continue to be responsible for the killing, the slaughter of all the people in Gaza," Helen said as she was handcuffed.

"They're talking about humanitarian assistance for people who are being slaughtered. It doesn't make sense to send people humanitarian assistance when you send bombs to Israel to kill them," she added.

One day prior, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin faced protests from CODEPINK activists after claiming during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that he had seen no evidence of genocide in Gaza.

Cover photo: IMAGO / SOPA Images

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