UNICEF in emergencies

Escalating death toll for children in Gaza

© UNICEF/HQ06-1099/Jadallah
Palestinian boys Ibraheem Abu Oda, 6, and his brother Tarek, 5, stand outside the ruins of their house which was attacked by Israeli forces in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 27 July 2006 – While clashes between Israel and Hezbollah intensify in Lebanon, fighting continues on a second front in Gaza in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). And the crisis is taking a heavy toll on children.

“In July alone, there were 35 children killed in Gaza, which is one of the highest numbers for a month over the last six years,” says UNICEF Special Representative in oPt, Dan Rohrmann.

According to Mr. Rohrmann, 63 children have died so far this year – a 30 per cent increase of the total figure of 2005. Some 100 children have also been injured. 

Children, he says, are living in a “climate of extraordinary insecurity and fear.”

“UNICEF at the moment is stepping up its activities in health, water and sanitation, education, child protection and adolescents,” says Mr. Rohrmann.

© UNICEF/HQ06-1095/Jadallah
Palestinian children Mohammed Al-Basyoni, Deyana, Rowa and Zohar (from left to right) fetch water in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory.

The agency is also ensuring that children have the necessary vaccines and that hospitals as well as health clinics have essential drugs and equipment.

“Children of all ages are afraid.” says UNICEF oPt Communication Officer Monica Awad. “They have nightmares. Parents in Gaza tell us that children won’t let go of their mothers. They are afraid to get out of the houses.”

The situation for civilians

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland visited Gaza on Tuesday 25 July and Haifa in Israel on Wednesday 26 July to assess the damage and destruction caused by both Israeli forces and Hezbollah rockets.

Mr. Egeland said he was shocked by the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including Gaza's only power plant.

“This is a heart breaking experience,” said the UN’s top humanitarian official, who added there were “too many wounded children, too many civilian houses destroyed.”

© UNICEF/HQ06-1102/Jadallah
Palestinians children play in their home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, occupied Palestinian territory.

Mr. Egeland described Israel's month-long military activities in Gaza as a "disproportionate use of force." However he again emphasized that all sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were guilty of violating humanitarian law.

Ms. Awad, who visited bombed areas in Nablus in the West Bank where clashes have also broke out, says the situation for civilians remains very difficult. Children and their families are confined to their homes without clean water or electricity.

Delivering the basics

Meanwhile UNICEF’s emergency efforts on the ground are focusing on health, nutrition, safe water and child protection and include:

  • the distribution of five generators to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Ministry of Health Primary Health Care clinics to ensure that vaccines are kept at appropriate temperatures.
  • the procurement of $1.2 million in emergency drugs and disposables for over 400 health clinics.
  • the distribution of 566 family water kits (each serving 10 families) to affected communities.
  • 13 large water tanks (containing 5,000 liters each) will be provided to Coastal Municipalities Water Utility and installed on trucks.
  • 112 UNICEF indoor recreational kits have been distributed to families in the northern cities of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun.
  • the pre-positioning with UNICEF partners of 650 baby hygiene kits along with 300 family hygiene kits ready to be distributed, as well as 888 recreational and school-in-a-box kits and 45 sport equipment kits.

In addition, UNICEF is supporting five child protection teams that reach approximately 3,000 children and 2,000 caregivers each month. The agency is also supporting summer festivals enabling over 15,000 children to escape their ordeal and engage with their peers in sports, art and cultural activities.

“With the limelight of the international media having shifted to Lebanon, the Gaza humanitarian crisis is on the verge of being forgotten,” says Mr. Rohrmann. “But I can say that for the 800,000 children in Gaza the humanitarian crisis is not forgotten but indeed a hard reality.”




27 July 2006: UNICEF’s Special Representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, Dan Rohrmann, talks about the rising number of child deaths in the region.
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