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UNICEF in Emergencies & Humanitarian Action

‘We didn’t sleep at all’ – Gaza aid worker evacuates home

© UNICEF/2009/El Baba
Relatives mourn during a funeral at their family home in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza.

NEW YORK, USA, 16 January 2009 – Shelling and bombing continue in the Gaza Strip, impeding movement into and within the territory and further damaging infrastructure and public utilities.

One of the buildings hit by shells yesterday was the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed outrage over the incident.

More than 50 UN buildings have been damaged since the fighting began almost three weeks ago. Over 500,000 Gazans are now without water and more than 1 million rely on food aid, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Elsewhere in Gaza, the air and ground offensive has raged on, causing many to flee their homes and seek shelter in safer neighbourhoods and buildings.

Heavy shelling
Reem, a UNICEF project officer for child protection in Gaza, evacuated her home with her family early Thursday morning.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0024/El Baba
Firefighters try to put out the fire and save bags of food aid at the UN

"During the night there was very heavy fighting and shelling less than 1km from our house," Reem told UNICEF Radio by in a telephone interview . "We didn't sleep at all. We were so worried, so scared that any of these missiles can attack my house."

Reem was evacuated by two UNICEF and UN Development Programme armoured vehicles to her parents' house. "I hope it's safer," she said, "But we're still hearing the shelling from time to time, which is very loud and very scary."

‘We are here all together’
The families of Reem's brother and sister, as well as her in-laws, have all taken refuge in her mother's home. "We have no electricity and we don't know the news," she said, "but at least we are here all together."

"The children are playing together, talking to each other, but they can't forget what's going on outside the house," she added.

On Wednesday, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman released a statement saying that over 300 children have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded since the beginning of the Gaza crisis on 27 December.

"Humanitarian access to all, especially to the most vulnerable, must be unhampered," Veneman said. "The crisis in Gaza is singular in that children and their families have nowhere to escape, no refuge.

And it is that sense of being trapped that has frayed Reem’s nerves. "I'm so worried,” she said, “because nobody knows what's going to go on tonight."




15 January 2009: Reem, a UNICEF child protection officer in Gaza, talks about evacuating from her home with her family.
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