Children in Gaza need life-saving support
Children and families need humanitarian assistance and protection now.
1 December 2023
The escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip is having a catastrophic impact on children and families. Children are dying at an alarming rate – more than 5,000 have reportedly been killed and thousands more injured. Well over 1.7 million people in the Gaza Strip have been displaced – half of them children. They do not have enough access to water, food, fuel and medicine. Their homes have been destroyed; their families torn apart.
“In all wars it is children who suffer first and suffer most.”
Even wars have rules. No child should be cut off from essential services, nor fall from the reach of humanitarian hands. No child should be held hostage or used by any means in armed conflict. Hospitals and schools must be protected from bombings, and they must not be used for military purposes, in accordance with international humanitarian law. The cost to children and their communities of this violence will be borne out for generations to come.
What is UNICEF calling for?
To respond to the situation for children in Israel and the State of Palestine, UNICEF is calling for:
An immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
The immediate, safe and unconditional release of all abducted children and the prevention and end to any grave violations against children, including killing and injuring.
All access crossings into the Gaza Strip to be opened and safe movement for humanitarian workers and supplies across the Gaza Strip to ensure sustained and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to affected populations wherever they are. This must include water, food, medical supplies, and fuel.
Urgent medical cases in Gaza to be able to safely access critical health services or be allowed to leave, and for injured or sick children evacuated to be accompanied by family members.
Respect and protection for civilian infrastructure such as shelters and schools, and health, electric, water and sanitation facilities, to prevent loss of civilian and children’s lives, outbreaks of diseases, and to provide care to the sick and wounded. All parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law.
UNICEF continues to press world leaders on every occasion for humanitarian access to the whole of Gaza.
How is UNICEF helping children in the Gaza Strip?
UNICEF continues to focus on the critical needs of children for protection and humanitarian assistance – but access remains difficult and dangerous. UNICEF staff, along with our United Nations and civil society partners, remain in Gaza. We must be allowed to provide life-saving aid at scale, especially in north Gaza, where access is most constrained. UNICEF and partners have dispatched emergency supplies including water, life-saving medicines and equipment but much more is needed to meet the immense needs of civilians.
At this time, UNICEF’s response includes:
- Supporting water trucking to shelters and the distribution of bottled water.
- Providing water containers, chlorine tablets for water purification and fuel to operate water wells, desalination plants and trucking, distributing
.family hygiene kits and tens of thousands of bars of soap.
- Delivering emergency medical supplies to hospitals and health facilities, including supplies for newborns,
- Supporting basic mental health and psychosocial activities in some shelters.
- Delivering a range of essential nutrition supplies including, amongst other essentials, high energy biscuits for children under the age of 5 and micronutrient supplementation for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Supporting recreational activities, including for children with disabilities, across various communities, camps and shelters.
- Providing humanitarian cash support for the most vulnerable households to meet basic needs.
Children in Gaza need life-saving support – every minute counts.
News and features
What’s happening in Gaza?
Even before the current crisis children in the State of Palestine have grown up under the shadow of recurrent violence and crushing poverty.
Children and their families have come under attack in the places they should be safest – their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship. More than half the school buildings in the Strip have sustained damage since 7 October. Hospitals are operating without fuel for incubators and other life-saving equipment.
Humanitarian needs continue to soar. Water production capacity has plummeted to just a fraction of its normal output. People have lost reliable access to safe water, toilets and washing facilities. Water scarcity and unsafe sanitation elevate the risk of disease, especially chronic diarrhoea – a leading killer of young children in all emergencies. Already, reported cases of diarrhoea among children under the age of 5 are soaring, while cases of scabies, lice, chicken pox, skin rashes and respiratory infections are also climbing.
Supplies of nutritious food have virtually run out. The violence has also shut down lifesaving prevention, screening and treatment services for malnutrition that were previously reaching hundreds of thousands of children. Without sufficient nutritious food, children will quickly become malnourished and child wasting, the most life-threatening form of malnutrition in children, could soar.
Students across the Gaza Strip have been affected by displacement and attacks on schools, losing access to safe places to learn. These children will fall behind and grow up without the skills they need and at greater risk exploitation and abuse.
And through it all, children remain cut off from psychosocial care. Even before this latest escalation, more than 500,000 children in Gaza were identified as needing mental health and psychosocial support. Today, every child has been exposed to deeply distressing events and trauma, marked by widespread destruction and displacement. Meanwhile, parents and caregivers are themselves under intense mental strain.
“The impacts on children and their mental health are immediate and will be long-lasting.”
Where wars rage, children suffer. Families across the region have been impacted and children exposed to unthinkable distress. Worldwide, an alarming rise in hate speech and bigotry is tearing communities apart.
Is UNICEF operational in Israel?
In high-income countries such as Israel, governments generally have adequate capacity to respond to emergencies. In extraordinary circumstances, upon request from the Government, UNICEF may consider extending support, such as psychosocial support for children.
In over 30 countries where UNICEF does not perform programmatic activities, National Committees for UNICEF serve as the dedicated voice of UNICEF and work to raise funds for UNICEF’s work around the world, promote children’s rights and secure worldwide visibility for children threatened by poverty, disasters, armed conflict, abuse and exploitation. The Israeli Fund for UNICEF was established in 2009 and works to raise awareness of children’s rights in Israel and to raise funds for UNICEF’s lifesaving work across the world.