Children in Gaza still at the sharp end of
unrelenting war

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This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Special representative Lucia Elmi on the situation of children in the State of Palestine – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, 12 January 2024 – “After almost 100 days of violence, killing, bombardment and captivity for children in Gaza, all the suffering has been too much.

“With every passing day, children and families in the Gaza Strip face increased risk of death from the sky, disease from lack of safe water, and deprivation from lack of food. And for the two remaining Israeli children still held hostage in Gaza, their nightmare that began on 7 October continues.

“And the situation continues to deteriorate rapidly. UNICEF last week spoke of the ‘triple threat’ stalking children in the Gaza Strip: conflict, disease, and malnutrition. We are doing everything we can, but we are faced with a formidable challenge to address these issues.

“Children in Gaza are running out of time, while most of the lifesaving humanitarian aid they desperately need remains stranded between insufficient access corridors and protracted layers of inspections. Mounting needs and a constrained response is a formula for a disaster of epic proportions.

“Thousands of children have already died and thousands more will quickly follow if we don’t immediately fix three urgent bottlenecks:

ONE – SAFETY: Nowhere is safe in the Gaza Strip. The intense bombardment and ongoing conflict in densely populated urban areas threatens the lives of civilians and humanitarian aid workers.

“The bombardment is also impeding the delivery of desperately needed assistance. When I was in Gaza last week, we tried for 6 days to get fuel and medical supplies to the North and for 6 days movement restrictions prevented us from travelling. My colleagues in Gaza endured this same challenge for weeks before my arrival. Families in the north desperately need this fuel to operate water and sanitation infrastructure. They are still waiting.

TWO – LOGISTICS: We still aren’t getting sufficient aid in – yesterday just 139 (73 via Rafah and 66 via KS) trucks entered. The inspection process remains slow and unpredictable. And some of the materials we desperately need remain restricted, with no clear justification. These include generators to power water facilities and hospitals, and plastic pipes to repair badly damaged water infrastructure.

“In addition, once aid gets in, there are significant challenges to distributing it across the Gaza Strip, particularly to the North and recently also the middle area.

“Frequent communications blackouts make it extremely challenging to coordinate the distribution of aid, and let people know how to access it, and when.

“The congestion in the south due to the massive displacement and the intense needs mean continued incidents of people in despair stopping trucks and trying to get their hands on whatever they can.

“Shortages of fuel and trucks inside the Strip, and major damage to roads, make travel slower and less frequent.

THREE – COMMERCIAL: Humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient. The volume of commercial goods for sale in the Gaza Strip needs to increase, and increase fast. What is needed is at least 300 trucks of private commercial goods going in on a daily basis. This will help people purchase essential goods, relieve community tension, and stimulate the cash assistance programs offered by UNICEF and others.

“But we are seeing very little change, and frankly, the consequences are being measured, daily, in the loss of children’s lives.

“An immediate and long-lasting ceasefire is the only way to end the killing and injuring of children and their families and enable the urgent delivery of desperately needed aid. But while we continue advocating and pushing for that to happen, we urgently need:

  • All access crossings into the Gaza Strip to open;
  • Approval and inspection processes for aid to be faster and more efficient, and predictable;
  • The resumption of commercial/private sector activities;
  • The immediate entry of increased quantity of fuel that can go across the Gaza Strip;
  • Reliable and uninterrupted telecommunication channels;
  • Greater trucking and transportation capacity inside the Gaza Strip;
  • Civilian infrastructure like schools and hospitals must be protected;
  • And, access to the north of the Gaza Strip, to allow us to reach vulnerable children and families that are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

    “Finally, the two abducted Israeli children must be unconditionally and safely released.

    “This violence must stop now.

    “Thank you.”
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