A humanitarian pause for children in Gaza

Medics carry Palestinian boys injured during an airstrike in Gaza City's al-Shifa hospital on July 11, 2014.
Medics carry Palestinian boys injured during an airstrike in Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital on July 11, 2014. Photo: UNICEF/El Baba

A humanitarian pause is taking place today in Gaza for five hours. UNICEF staff members are on the ground, checking primary health care clinic and hospitals to help injured children and evaluate their needs.

The humanitarian situation in the State of Palestine deteriorated as a result of escalating violence beginning in June 2014, posing a serious threat to children’s lives, liberty and security.

Up to half of Gaza’s population is now without water supply due to air strike-related damages to water systems, further exacerbating the already overloaded water and sanitation system in Gaza. Technicians working in dangerous conditions are struggling to repair and operate critical infrastructure.

Palestinian children fill their bottles with drinking water at a groundwater desalination unit in Rafah, south Gaza Strip, on 13 July. In Gaza City, 400,000 people don’t have access to piped water anymore due to power outage or direct damage to water infrastructure following airstrikes. Photo: © UNICEF / Eyad El Baba
Palestinian children fill their bottles with drinking water at a groundwater desalination unit in Rafah, south Gaza Strip, on 13 July. Photo: UNICEF/El Baba

Yesterday UNICEF visited the main sewage treatment plant in Gaza that appears to have been directly targeted by air strikes, and is no longer functioning. Sewage has been flowing through the street and into the fields, creating a serious health hazard.

Five UNICEF emergency support teams continue to reach out to traumatized children and their families in hospitals and homes across Gaza. Operated by our partner, the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), the teams have already carried out 262 visits, reaching more than 302 children who were in shock following recent events.

22,600 people from northern Gaza, approximately half of whom are children, are currently sheltering in UN schools in Gaza City.

Palestinian children share a mattress at a school where they are taking shelter in Gaza City. More than 17,000 people are taking shelter in UNRWA schools; they fled northern Gaza after the Israeli air force dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate by noon Sunday. Photo: © UNICEF / Eyad El Baba
Palestinian children share a mattress at a UN school in Gaza City where they are taking shelter in Gaza City. Photo: UNICEF/El Baba

UNICEF is assisting children and families in Gaza by providing life-saving medicines, clean drinking water, sanitation, psychological support and safe learning spaces.

UNICEF has called on all sides to urgently exercise maximum restraint and for the protection of civilians – not only for the sake of peace, but for sake of the children who are suffering the worst of this current violence.

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