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Ten weeks of extreme hardship for the children living in Gaza, according to a report by UNICEF.
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Ten weeks of extreme hardship for the children living in Gaza, according to a report by UNICEF.

According to UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, children are facing constant airstrikes and have no safe refuge due to a lack of basic necessities like food, water, shelter, and sanitation. Elder, who has just returned from the enclave, stated that this situation is putting their lives in danger.

Ahead of a UN Security Council meeting expected to call for a pause in fighting to facilitate aid access, he told journalists in Geneva that “every single child is enduring these 10 weeks of hell and not one of them can escape”. 

He recounted the words of a parent with a seriously ill child, who said, “Our circumstances are nothing but agony…I’m unsure if we will survive this.”

The Gaza health authorities report that since Israel began retaliating for Hamas’ deadly terror attacks on October 7, over 19,400 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have lost their lives in the enclave.

More than 52,000 Palestinians have sustained injuries, but their ability to receive critical medical treatment is severely restricted. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that only eight out of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are operating to some extent.

‘Beyond belief’

Hospitals are overwhelmed with children and their parents, all bearing “the ghastly wounds of war”, Mr. Elder said. He stressed that while in the Strip he encountered many young amputees. Around 1,000 children in Gaza have lost one or both their legs, he said. 

According to Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), staff members in Gaza are unable to move around in the emergency wards due to the fear of stepping on people who are lying on the floor in severe pain and requesting food and water.

Children look at their destroyed homes in Rafah city, in the southern Gaza Strip.

© UNICEF/Eyad El Baba

Youngsters gaze upon the ruins of their residences in Rafah city, located in the southern region of the Gaza Strip.

She described the situation as “unconscionable” and expressed disbelief that the world is allowing it to persist.

Hospital shelled 

According to Mr. Elder, Al Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the largest hospital remaining in Gaza, was shelled twice in the past 48 hours.

The hospital provides shelter for numerous children who have been severely injured due to attacks on their homes, as well as hundreds of women and children who are seeking safety. This refers to individuals who have been forced to leave their homes because of the ongoing conflict and evacuation orders.

Approximately 1.9 million individuals, representing the vast majority of Gaza’s population, are believed to have been displaced.

According to Mr. Elder, children who have been injured and are coping with the death of their loved ones have been repeatedly displaced. He questioned, “Where can these children and their families seek refuge? Hospitals, shelters, and even supposed ‘safe’ zones are not providing adequate safety for them.”

Nowhere is secure

The representative from UNICEF clarified that the designated “safe zones” were actually not safe as they were only determined by Israel and did not have enough resources for basic needs such as food, water, medicine, and protection.

According to Mr. Elder, these areas are small areas of unproductive land, street intersections, or partially constructed buildings that lack basic necessities such as water, amenities, protection from the elements, and proper sanitation.

He stated that it is impossible to have sufficient resources in areas under siege and that he personally witnessed this during his recent visit to Gaza.

A family cooks in the rubble of their home in the Gaza Strip.

© WFP/Ali Jadallah

Diarrhoea and malnutrition

The representative from UNICEF emphasized the severe shortage of proper sanitation, noting that in Gaza, there is an average of one toilet for every 700 people. According to him, there are over 100,000 cases of diarrhea in children, which, when combined with high levels of malnutrition, can have fatal consequences.

According to Mr. Elder, over 130,000 children under the age of two are not receiving essential breastfeeding and complementary feeding, including micronutrient supplementation, which is crucial for their survival.

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According to Mr. Elder, providing aid is crucial for the survival of children in Gaza and the necessary conditions for it are not currently being fulfilled.

According to the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, the amount of aid trucks permitted to enter Gaza is significantly lower than the daily average of 500 truckloads that were allowed in before October 7th.

On Sunday, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 102 trucks carrying essential aid and four fuel tankers entered Gaza via the Rafah border with Egypt, while 79 trucks entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel. This marks the first time such deliveries have been made since the escalation began.

Dr. Harris from WHO emphasized that it is difficult to deliver aid to the necessary locations due to both ongoing conflicts and extensive road damage. In addition to bringing in supplies from the border, this has posed a major challenge.

According to Mr. Elder, the most effective solution for stopping the harm and death of children, both from violence and illness, and allowing for the timely distribution of crucial life-saving assistance is an immediate and enduring ceasefire for humanitarian purposes.