|Palestinian children wounded during shelling rush into Shifa hospital in Gaza on 5 January 2009.|
NEW YORK, USA, 7 January 2009 – As fighting in Gaza continued into its 12th day today, a three-hour ceasefire allowed for the limited movement of humanitarian aid within the territory. UNICEF was able to distribute some supplies, including family water kits and health kits, to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.
Still, much more aid is needed to meet the urgent needs of children at risk.
Gaza is now divided into two sections and there is no electricity in 75 per cent of the territory, posing a particular problem for medical facilities. Over half a million Gazans have no running water, and the lack of electricity has paralyzed sewage treatment plants, increasing the risk of water-borne disease.
Meanwhile, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City was bombed yesterday, resulting in numerous fatalities and injuries.
‘No words to describe it’
The United Nations has called the situation a humanitarian crisis.
"Right now the situation in Gaza is very bad. There are no words to describe it," said Reem, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, in a telephone interview with UNICEF Radio.
"We live on the first floor [of our home] and four other families are living here who escaped the fighting in the border areas," she added. "We have 35 people living in the house, including kids, elderly people, women, men. This is what life is like for most houses in Gaza now."
Food supplies, frayed nerves
Although most UN food distribution centres are open, insecurity has blocked access to food supplies for many families in Gaza.
"We live on canned food," said Reem. "There's no gas. There's no electricity to make the bread. So kids are forced to go out in the morning and line up in front of the bakery to get one or two bags of bread."
The Bakery Owners Association in Gaza says its members are also running out of fuel because the conflict has cut off access to their storage facilities.
Reem noted that 11 days in sequestration had begun to fray her nerves.
"Today, it's sunny and nice, and the kids and adults, they go up on the roof – they get bored being inside the house," she said. "But we have a neighbour with two kids who are 15 and 16, and they went to play on the roof and they got hit when a plane came. So it's not even safe on the roof."
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Back to school in Gaza
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The toll on children