New Zealand humanitarian
urge political leaders to
intensify efforts for
peace in Gaza at Christmas time
New Zealand humanitarian organisations unanimously urge political leaders to intensify efforts for peace in Gaza at Christmas time
NEW ZEALAND, 19 December 2023– As parliament adjourns and New Zealand “shuts down” for the holidays, the New Zealand humanitarian community is issuing an urgent plea to our political leaders: do not forget the children of Gaza at Christmas time.
“As we gather with our own children or grandchildren for beach barbeques, one child in Gaza is killed every 10 minutes (1). As we rest safely in our homes, nearly two million people have been forced to flee theirs with no safe place to go (2). Nearly 19,000 people have been killed and 51,000 injured (3). They are not just statistics – they are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons and babies,” says Ian McInnes, CEO of Tearfund New Zealand.
With access to Gaza heavily restricted, aid agencies have been rendered powerless at a time when children risk dying not only from bombings, but of dehydration and starvation, and as the accumulation of human waste transforms Gaza's streets into a breeding ground for cholera and disease (4).
"For millions of children in Gaza, Israel and across the region, there is only terror now. Fear of being killed by rockets, missiles or bullets, fear that food or water will run out. We fear the world has lost sight of its responsibility to ensure that the most fundamental rights of all children are respected. We are far past the point of condolences and polite pleas; our politicians must do more,” says Grant Bayldon, CEO of World Vision New Zealand.
Since the conflict began over two months ago, New Zealand humanitarian organisations have been united in urging the New Zealand Government to show global leadership and express New Zealand’s stance firmly in the global arena.
The humanitarian community commends last week’s joint statement by the New Zealand, Australian, and Canadian Prime Ministers expressing support for urgent international efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire. However, they want their political leaders to call for an immediate ceasefire and do more than just issue statements. They urge the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to proactively mobilise the international community to make the ceasefire a reality. This includes placing pressure on countries that continue to veto a ceasefire at the United Nations.
“New Zealand is a trusted partner internationally and has often punched above its weight in international politics, resulting in strong wins through diplomacy and advocacy. New Zealand must leverage these skills now so that a long-term solution for peace is upheld and appeals for a ceasefire have a realistic chance of support, and don’t continue to be vetoed,” says Josie Pagani, CEO of Childfund New Zealand.
“Our politicians must unequivocally assert New Zealand’s stance against the tragic loss of civilians, especially those of children. This means declaring that all indiscriminate bombing and targeting of Palestinian and Israeli civilians and civilian infrastructure is never justifiable and publicly abhorring all breaches of humanitarian law. All parties must respect international law and cease their attacks on civilians,” says Jason Myers, Executive Director of Oxfam Aotearoa.
Each day, the humanitarian crisis worsens. The number of hospitals functioning to any capacity has dropped from 36 to eight (5). Critical shortages of medicine, water, fuel and food persist. There is no access to clean water in the north and thousands are on the brink of starvation (6).
New Zealand humanitarian organisations have partners in and around Gaza desperate to deliver aid to children and adults who are suffering, but they need the Government to help provide access so that they can scale up their response to affected communities.
“As a sector, we are grateful for New Zealand’s initial NZ$10 million contribution in response to this humanitarian crisis. However, much more humanitarian aid funding is required to meet urgent medical needs and provide essential items like food and water. Most urgently we need our government to work at a global level to secure humanitarian access so that we can reach those in desperate need,” says Michelle Sharp, CEO of UNICEF Aotearoa.
“Christmas in New Zealand is a world away from the horrors children and adults are enduring in Gaza, and the unrelenting anguish of families hoping for the safe return of loved ones taken hostage,” says Heidi Coetzee, CEO of Save the Children. “We cannot go silently into this holiday season without pleading to our leaders to do more: Let's not just talk about the need for a ceasefire. Our government must turn talk into action and commit to doing all they can to help end this horror and get the desperately needed aid into Gaza.”
New Zealand humanitarian organisations are united in imploring the New Zealand Government to:
- Mobilise the international community to demand a permanent end to conflict.
Strengthen global support for a lasting solution to the conflict that prioritises peace.
- Employ all diplomatic means to insist that international humanitarian law is upheld, and that all civilians are protected.
Nearly half of Gaza’s population (41%) are under the age of 15, and nearly 8,000 children are estimated to have been killed so far in the conflict (7,8). Civilians also need to be protected from further displacement.
- Put pressure on the international community to ensure humanitarian access into Gaza at all crossings.
Safe and unimpeded humanitarian access is required to provide supplies such as food, water and medicine that will save lives and prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.
- Engage the international community to demand the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all Israeli hostages, especially abducted children, and the prevention and end to any grave violations against children, including killing and injuring.
- Pressure the international community to ensure “safe zones” are truly safe.
There is significant risk for displaced children and adults who are being funnelled into unilaterally established ‘safe zones’ in Gaza that do not meet the requirements of a safe zone. Without the right conditions, including the agreement of all parties, provision of survival essentials, and free and voluntary movement, concentrating civilians in such zones can raise the risk of attack and large-scale loss of life.
- Increase New Zealand’s humanitarian aid support.
The New Zealand public is giving generously to the NGO community’s public appeals, but further Government support is desperately needed to provide essential supplies.
- Special Visa Category for Palestinians.
Create a temporary special category visa for Palestinians in Gaza who have family members in New Zealand, similar to the Afghan Emergency Resettlement Visa and Special Ukraine Visa.
1-WHO - World Health Organization Chief, Briefing Security Council on War in Gaza (11th November 2023)
2- 1.93 million internally displaced people (85% of Gaza) UNRIC – Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – Reported Impact Day 66 (11 December 2023) https://unric.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2023/12/Gaza_casualties_info-graphic_11_Dec_2023.pdf
3- OCHA – Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – Reported Impact (15 December 2023) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied- palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-reported-impact-15-december-2023-2359
4-WFP – Palestine Emergency Response Situation Report 10 (3 December 2023) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied- palestinian-territory/wfp-palestine-emergency-response-external-situation-report-10-03-december-2023
5-OCHA - Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel | Flash Update #71 (17 December 2023). https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied- palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-flash-update-71
6-OCHA – Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – Reported Impact (15 December 2023) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied- palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-reported-impact-15-december-2023-2359
7-OCHA – Humanitarian Needs Overview Occupied Palestinian Territory (January 2023)
8-OCHA – Hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel – Reported Impact (15 December 2023) https://reliefweb.int/report/occupied- palestinian-territory/hostilities-gaza-strip-and-israel-reported-impact-15-december-2023-2359