The war on children resumes - Geneva Palais briefing note

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

01 December 2023
Gaza. A boy stands holding his cat next to the remains of damaged buildings.
UNICEF/UNI453264/El Baba

GAZA/GENEVA, 1 December 2023 – “Today those in power decided that the killing of children would recommence in Gaza.

“If you will allow me one minute to say what I had prepared before the attacks started.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is so perilous that anything other than sustained peace and at scale emergency aid will mean catastrophe for the children of Gaza.

“I was then going to speak of the dire situation in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and how it threatens a disaster of unparalleled magnitude for the children of Gaza.

“Such is the enormity of need, such has been the blocks on aid for so long, that despite huge efforts this past week, the health and nutrition and sanitation situation worsens by the day.

“I was going to end by saying: A lasting ceasefire must therefore be implemented. The alternative is unthinkable for people already living in a nightmare. Inaction, at its core, is an approval of the killing of children.

“But here we are. The bombs started just seconds after the end of the ceasefire.

“I immediately went to Nasser hospital. As we approached I saw there had been a hit 50 or so metres away. Nasser is the largest still-functioning hospital in Gaza. It is at least 200 per cent capacity. Hundreds of women and children sleep in waiting rooms and corridors. Children with the wounds of war are everywhere. Hospitals cannot take more wounded patients. The system is shattered. I visited a hospital in the north; normally it should do referrals. It is now the largest functioning hospital in the north. Blood and bloodied bandages cover the floor. Health staff are exhausted. The church inside the hospital is an emergency room – it too was hit. I saw a mother cry as her son bled to death. Death is everywhere.

“I have been going to Nasser Hospital all week. To listen to children, courageous tireless Palestinian health workers, families. To play with children; gently seek to give them a distraction from their nightmare. And at times, I could see a gentle change in their faces. A glimpse of childhood returning. No longer. Fear has returned. So have the wounded. Bloodied bodies were rushed in as I was there.  

“It is reckless to think more attacks on the people of Gaza will lead to anything other than carnage. And yet there were three or four large blasts nearby whilst I was there.

“Surely, any conversation around Gaza has to begin with empathy. It's deeply unsettling to hear how some have been able to overlook the tragic deaths of these children; and now, today, are seemingly comfortable with the horrors – the attacks - starting again.

“To accept the sacrifice of the children in Gaza is humanity giving up.

“This is our last chance, before we delve into seeking to explain yet another utterly avoidable tragedy.”

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Media contacts

Ricardo Pires
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UNICEF
Tel: +1 (917) 631-1226
Joe English
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692

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