How did the BBC report the IPC’s latest ‘famine’ study?

Readers may recall that in late March the BBC’s international editor Jeremy Bowen reported that: [emphasis added]

“After months of warnings, a recent UN-backed report offered hard statistical evidence that the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is turning into a man-made famine. […]

The UN’s most senior human rights official, Volker Türk, said in a BBC interview that Israel bore significant blame, and that there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza.

Mr Türk, who is the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that if intent was proven, that would amount to a war crime.”

Bowen’s report is still available online, along with twelve others covering the same topic published between March 18th and March 29th inclusive:

AN OVERVIEW OF BBC NEWS WEBSITE PROMOTION OF AN IPC REPORT

As documented here last month, that “hard statistical evidence” was shown to be unreliable in an IPC report published on June 4th, not least because it failed to take into account all categories of food deliveries to the Gaza Strip:

BBC NEWS CONTINUES TO PROMOTE A NARRATIVE ON FAMINE IN GAZA

As noted at the time, the BBC News website did not produce any coverage of that report.

On June 25th the IPC’s Famine Review Committee (FRC) published another study which was reported by the Times of Israel as follows:

“There is currently no famine in Gaza, a new report by the key Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) organization has found, despite the IPC having predicted in March that a full-blown famine would break out in the territory between March and July 2024.

The study released on Tuesday stated that assumptions the previous projection had made about the amount of food that would enter the territory turned out to be wrong, and that the supply of food to Gaza has increased instead of decreased during recent months.

“In this context, the available evidence does not indicate that Famine is currently occurring,” the report said.

In particular, the study found no evidence that deaths from starvation reached famine levels, but did not provide any data about how many such deaths there may have been.

The report also dramatically reduced the percentage of the population it had previously said was in Level 5 (Catastrophe) and Level 4 (Emergency) status for food insecurity.

It cut those assessed at the catastrophe level by half, from 30% to 15%, and reduced by a quarter the population percentage estimated to be at the emergency level, from 39% to 29%.

This, nevertheless, still amounts to some 343,000 Gazans at the catastrophe level, and the IPC reported that “a high and sustained risk of Famine across the whole Gaza Strip” remained and that “extreme human suffering is without a doubt currently ongoing in the Gaza Strip.””

Despite its copious promotion of claims concerning a “man-made famine” three months ago, the BBC chose to downplay the fact that the IPC’s new study found no evidence of current famine in the Gaza Strip in the headline chosen for its June 25th report on that topic: “‘High risk’ of famine in Gaza persists, new UN-backed report says”.

The opening paragraphs of that report by David Gritten (a part of which was previously discussed here) tell BBC audiences that:

“A UN-backed assessment says almost half a million Palestinians across Gaza are still facing “catastrophic levels” of hunger and that a “high risk” of famine persists as long as the Israel-Hamas war continues and humanitarian access is restricted.

However, the report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) says the available evidence does not indicate a famine is currently occurring in the north of the Palestinian territory.

The previous assessment in March had projected that one was imminent in the area.”

Failing to note that the report the BBC quoted and promoted so widely in March did not record all the categories of aid entering the Gaza Strip, Gritten tells readers that:

“The amount of food and other aid allowed into the north has increased since then, and nutrition, water, sanitation and health services have been stepped up, the report says.”

He goes on:

“But it warns that food availability in the south and central Gaza has been significantly reduced due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing and the displacement of more than one million people from the city of Rafah since early May, when Israel launched a ground operation there.”

Gritten refrains from informing readers that it was Egypt which closed the Rafah border crossing and delayed the transfer of aid from its territory via the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Later in the report readers are told that:

In March, the IPC classified 677,000 Gazans – or 30% of the 2.2 million population – as being in Phase 5, including 165,000 people trapped in northern Gaza. It also projected that a famine was “imminent” in the north by the end of May because of conflict and the near-complete lack of humanitarian access.

Israel rejected that analysis, questioning the IPC’s transparency, methodology and sources of information.”

Notably, no mention is made of the IPC’s June 4th report which also “rejected that analysis”.

Gritten’s report includes several examples of uncritical amplification of claims from Hamas sources.

“UN officials have blamed the situation on Israeli military restrictions on aid deliveries, the ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of law and order.

Israel insists there are no limits to the amount of aid that can be delivered into and across Gaza and blames UN agencies for failing to distribute supplies. It also accuses Hamas of stealing aid, which the group denies.”

Despite choosing to amplify that denial from the terrorist organisation which started the war, Gritten refrains from informing his readers that there is plenty of evidence to show that both Hamas and criminal gangs have been looting humanitarian aid convoys.

Failing to clarify that the health ministry run by the same terrorist organisation deliberately does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, Gritten tells readers that:

“More than 37,650 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.”

Failing to explain that “local health officials” also means Hamas, Gritten later tells readers that:

“The World Health Organization said earlier this month that 32 deaths attributed to malnutrition, including 28 among children under five years old, had been reported by local health officials.”

In a later section of his report relating to a different topic, Gritten tells readers that:

Health officials told Reuters news agency that 14 people were killed in strikes on two schools used as shelters by displaced people in the central Daraj area of Gaza City and the urban Shati refugee camp, to the north.

The Israeli military said in a statement that aircraft had struck “two structures that were being used by Hamas terrorists” in Shati and Daraj.

“The terrorists operated inside school compounds that were used by Hamas as a shield for its terrorist activities,” it added, accusing some of them of being involved in holding hostages and taking part in the 7 October attack.

Hamas has previously denied using schools for military purposes.”

Once again Gritten fails to provide BBC audiences with any of the ample evidence contradicting that Hamas denial.

If the BBC were genuinely committed to standards of accuracy, impartiality and transparency, it would of course now add a footnote to each of its thirteen reports published three months ago – which are still available online – telling BBC audiences that famine was “imminent” in the Gaza Strip. Judging from past experience, it is however highly unlikely that the BBC News website will make any effort to relieve audiences of the inaccurate impressions created by its extensive amplification of a report which, although highly problematic, promoted a narrative embraced by the BBC.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Sid

    So where is the Jewish Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Chief “Rabbi” Mirvis etc – they still are afraid to raise their heads above the parapet

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