Gaza crisis 2009
© UNICEF oPt/2009/El Baba
The Israeli military incursion in Gaza, which occurred between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, took a great economic, social and psychological toll on the lives of Gazans. Many children witnessed the deaths of caregivers, siblings and friends right before their eyes. All border crossings were virtually sealed; children and their families had nowhere to run to, no refuge from the violence.
Even before the recent conflict, the children of Gaza suffered from years of conflict, blockade, lack of adequate social services, and poverty; a situation labeled by humanitarian workers as “a crisis of human dignity”.
Children killed and injured
Children accounted for roughly a third of the dead and wounded due to the hostilities; 431 children were killed and 1,872 children were left injured . It is further estimated that up to 30 per cent of people injured, including 560 children, sustained severe injuries that without proper rehabilitation can result in permanent disability .
Attacks on infrastructure and homes
Health facilities, ambulances, schools and day care centres were damaged and destroyed during the hostilities. Pregnant women about to deliver were turned away from hospitals struggling to treat the thousands of injured. Primary health care services were reported to have declined by about 90%, and many programs such as vaccination schemes and neonatal care stopped completely for significant periods during the hostilities . At the height of the crisis, an estimated 100,000 people were displaced including those in shelters and with host families , virtually all of Gaza’s 1.4 million people were without electricity and at any given time during the fighting, at least 500,000 people were without water.
In 2009, UNICEF will work with partners to support families, communities and relevant institutions in strengthening the protective environment for children in Gaza. In its response, UNICEF will focus on education, psychosocial support for children and their caregivers, support to adolescents, as well as programmes in health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.
Access constraints to Gaza have hindered the relief operations of UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations, and the humanitarian community in oPt has tirelessly advocated for all border crossings to Gaza to be opened immediately for the relief of children and their families in Gaza.