Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children

This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva

31 October 2023

GENEVA, 31 October 2023 – “From the earliest days of the unprecedented hostilities in the Gaza Strip, UNICEF has been forthright on the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, for the aid to flow and for children abducted to be released.  Like many others, we have pleaded for the killing of children to stop.

“Our gravest fears about the reported numbers of children killed becoming dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately thousands were realized in just a fortnight. The numbers are appalling; reportedly more than 3,450 children killed; staggeringly this rises significantly every day. 

“Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It’s a living hell for everyone else.

“And yet the threats to children go beyond bombs and mortars.  I want to speak briefly on water and trauma. 

“The more than one million children of Gaza also have a water crisis.  Gaza’s water production capacity is a mere 5 per cent of its usual daily output.  Child deaths – particularly infants - to dehydration are a growing threat. 

“This is what one of my UNICEF colleagues, Nesma, who lives and works in Gaza said. She has two children, 4yr old Talia, and 7yr old Zain: It breaks my heart to see children around me strive for a cup of clean water and cannot find itZain keeps asking for regular water.

“She means safe drinking water, not salty water which is the only option right now and is making 7yr old Zain and many other children sick. 

“And then there is the trauma. When the fighting stops, the cost to children and their communities will be borne out for generations to come.  Before this latest escalation, more than 800,000 children in Gaza – three quarters of its entire child population – were identified as needing mental health and psychosocial support. That’s before this latest nightmare.

“The same UNICEF colleague, Nesma, who spoke of her 7yr old desperately asking for clean water, explained the trauma her 4yr old is going through. Four year old Talia is showing severe symptoms of stress and fear, and is now self-harming, such as ripping her hair off and scratching her thighs until they bleed.  And yet as her mother explains: I don’t have the luxury to think about my children’s mental health. I keep telling myself, ‘Nesma, keep them alive.’ And when all of this ends, I will provide them with mental support and medical care.

“And so we say again, on behalf of Talia and Zain, and the other 1.1m children in Gaza living through a nightmare: We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. And all access crossings into Gaza must be opened for the safe, sustained and unimpeded access of humanitarian aid, including water, food, medical supplies, and fuel.

“And if there is no ceasefire, no water, no medicine, and no release of abducted children? Then we hurtle towards even greater horrors afflicting innocent children.”


Media contacts

Ammar Ammar
Regional Chief of Advocacy and Communication
UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Office
Tel: 00962791837388
Salim Oweis
Communication Officer
Tel: 00962799365212


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