|Smoke rises during an air strike in Gaza on 3 January, as Palestinian families take shelter in their homes.|
NEW YORK, USA, 5 January 2009 – Ten days of aerial bombing on Gaza has caused extensive devastation throughout the territory and is threatening the health and welfare of many children. Most of Gaza is without electricity, and the situation is turning into a massive humanitarian crisis.
UNICEF is calling for a permanent and sustainable humanitarian space in Gaza that includes access for supplies and staff, and the ability to distribute aid and make assessments.
The hospitals in Gaza are overwhelmed by casualties and are running low on medicines. More than half the population of Gaza is made up of children.
One boy's story
Sixteen-year-old Baha has lived with 16 other members of his family in the basement of his Gaza City home since the bombing began.
"I'm trying to stay alive," he said in a telephone interview with UNICEF Radio. "There's no electricity, and as a result of that there is no healthy water to drink."
"Everybody feels scared," Baha said, as the sound of bombs and rockets echoed in the background. "Everyone is moving from his house because he's afraid that his house will be hit from the air or from the land or from the sea."
The military offensive began in the middle of exam period for students in the region, and schools have been closed ever since. Baha was in the middle of an Arabic exam when the Israeli campaign began.
"We won't have school for at least two weeks," he said.
Some Gazans are using schools as shelter. Many homes have been destroyed. Except for some health and food distribution centres, UN offices are closed in Gaza because of security concerns.
UNICEF provides vaccines and micronutrients for children in Gaza, and works to improve the quality of education and deliver psychosocial support to children and their caregivers. UNICEF and its partners also provide child-friendly spaces throughout the territory.
Crisis in Gaza
Vaccination campaign targets 120,000
Back to school in Gaza
Learning centres for adolescents
The toll on children