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Gaza and Israel: Children’s Safety Must Come First | #schoolsaftey

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Every child has the right to protection from violence 

After six weeks of heavy bombardment in the Gaza Strip, more than 5,000 children have reportedly been killed and nearly 9,000 wounded since the start of a retaliatory campaign following deadly attacks inside Israel on Oct. 7, including the abduction of children.

In Israel last week, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, Humanitarian Action and Supply Operations Ted Chaiban met with parents whose children are being held hostage in Gaza. “They shared their anguish and fear that grows deeper by the minute, hour and day,” he posted on social media. “I said that UNICEF will continue to do everything in our power to bring these children home where they belong.”

Inside Gaza, there is nowhere safe for 1 million children to turn

“The parties to the conflict are committing grave violations against children; these include killing, maiming, abductions, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access — all of which UNICEF condemns, said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Many children are missing and believed buried under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings — the tragic result of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.”

As air strikes and a ground assault continue, the entire population of Gaza — 2.2 million people, half of whom are children — is in need of food assistance and at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Only 10 percent of necessary food supplies have entered Gaza since the start of the conflict. 

On Nov. 19, 2023, babies rescued by UNICEF and partners from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza were relocated to the Al-Helal Al-Emarati Hospital in Rafah, in the south of the Strip. © UNICEF/UNI473117/El Baba

UNICEF and partners are working to support hospitals struggling to provide urgent care for babies and children

As the number of injured continues to rise, UNICEF has been providing medical and baby supplies to hospitals in the southern and central Gaza, to support approximately 244,000 people. On Nov. 19, UNICEF worked with partners to rescue 31 premature babies from Al Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza under extremely dangerous conditions and relocated them to Al-Helal Al-Emarati Hospital in the south.

Lack of fuel remains a critical concern for hospitals in Gaza. At Al Nasr Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, tiny babies cling to life in incubators as doctors worry about how they will keep the machines running without fuel. Newborn babies who require special care have died in one of Gaza’s hospitals as power and medical supplies run out, and the violence continues. 

Four-year-old Lama and family members sit in front of their tent at UNRWA shelter camp in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip.
Four-year-old Lama, center, and family members sat in front of their tent at the UNRWA camp for the displaced in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 1, 2023. “I am here with my family sleeping in this tent,” she said. “I do not know when I will be back home, but I miss sleeping in my bed. I want this situation to end very soon.” © UNICEF/UNI472244/Zaqout

More than 100 UNRWA aid workers have lost their lives since October

UNICEF staff and colleagues in Gaza have remained at their posts to deliver for children amid the danger and devastation. More than 100 UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) have been killed since October — the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time.

Many people, including UNICEF staff and their families, are now living in overcrowded shelters with very little water, food or adequate sanitation, conditions that can lead to disease outbreaks. 

Several shipments of essential supplies are loaded onto UNICEF charter flights at Copenhagen International Airport.
Several shipments of essential supplies are loaded onto UNICEF charter flights at Copenhagen International Airport. The supplies are being airlifted to Al Arish, Egypt, close to the Gaza Strip. © UNICEF/UNI463041/Mansour

UNICEF and partners are pressing for more access to deliver essential supplies and services. Much more help is needed

UNICEF is working with partners to reach families in Gaza with humanitarian assistance including:

  • bottled water, hygiene kits, water purification tablets and collapsible water containers, along with water trucking to shelters serving an estimated 1 million people including 560,000 children
  • lifesaving medical supplies including medicines and consumables, and water trucks for hospitals
  • solid waste containers and cleaning services to address sanitation needs in overcrowded shelters
  • humanitarian cash transfers to help families purchase necessities
  • recreational activities for thousands of children
  • nutritional supplements for breastfeeding mothers struggling to feed themselves and their babies 
Gazal, 14, and her family were forced to flee Khan Younis in southern Gaza after their home was destroyed by a bomb.
Ghazal, 14, and her family were forced to flee their home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, after it was destroyed by bombardment. Ghazal, her five siblings and their parents are living in a classroom at a school being used as an emergency shelter. They share the classroom with three other families. “I cannot stand this life, I cannot stand living in a school shelter, I cannot stand the idea that this becoming normal for us,” Ghazal said. © UNICEF/UNI463114/El Baba

As needs skyrocket, unimpeded humanitarian access is a must

UNICEF and partners continue to push for more humanitarian access to deliver urgently needed supplies. Diesel fuel has practically run out, causing some hospitals and health centers to stop functioning. Without fuel, desalination plants cannot produce drinking water and humanitarian supplies cannot be distributed.

The intermittent opening of Gaza’s border crossings to shipments of humanitarian supplies is insufficient to meet the skyrocketing needs. And with winter around the corner, the need for fuel could become even more acute. 

Children play during UNICEF-supported recreational activities in shelters in Rafah City, southern Gaza Strip, amid continuous hostilities.
Children play during UNICEF-supported recreational activities in shelters in Rafah City, southern Gaza Strip, amid continuous hostilities. © UNICEF/UNI463115/El Baba

UNICEF is calling for an immediate ceasefire and the safe release of all abducted and detained children

“I once again call on all parties to ensure that children are protected and assisted, as per international humanitarian law,” said Russell.

“I also call on the parties to implement an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, to safely release all abducted and detained children, and to ensure that humanitarian actors have safe, sustained and unimpeded access to reach those in need with the full range of lifesaving services and supplies.”

UNICEF won’t stop working to meet the needs of children currently facing an urgent and pressing need for protection and humanitarian assistance. Your contribution can make a difference. Please donate today. 

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