Time is running out for children in Gaza—UNICEF
UNICEF calls for an immediate humanitarian pause and safe access to scale and sustain lifesaving services for children
NEW YORK, 13 October 2023 – Hundreds of thousands of children and their families have started fleeing northern Gaza today ahead of imminent larger-scale attacks. It follows days of bombardments of Gaza after the brutal attacks of 7 October. Nearly a week into the war, hundreds of children have been reportedly killed, and thousands more reportedly injured.
UNICEF is calling for an immediate ceasefire as 1.1 million people—nearly half of them children—have been warned to move out, ahead of what is expected to be a widescale military assault into one of the most densely populated places on earth.
Children and families in Gaza have practically run out of food, water, electricity, medicine and safe access to hospitals, following days of hostilities and cuts to all supply routes.
“The situation is catastrophic, with unrelenting bombing and a massive increase in the displacement of children and families. There are no safe places,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “An immediate ceasefire and humanitarian access are the top priorities to allow much needed aid to children and families in Gaza. We need an immediate humanitarian pause to ensure unhindered and safe access to children in need, no matter who they are or where they are. There are rules of war. Children in Gaza need lifesaving support and every minute counts.”
Homes and critical infrastructure lie in ruin, and over 423,000 people have already fled their homes. Some have taken shelter in schools or hospitals, with some of schools damaged in attacks. Gaza’s two main hospitals, already running out of fuel and overflowing with injured civilians, have also been warned to move patients and staff south in just hours.
Right now, there is practically no way out of Gaza for the civilian population.
UNICEF staff have continued to respond to the critical needs of children across the Gaza Strip, but access is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous. Humanitarians have also been warned to move out of Gaza city, but UNICEF staff will stay in southern Gaza to continue to provide support for children in need.
UNICEF has distributed nearly all its prepositioned supplies, and worked to keep the only functioning desalination plant in the entire Gaza Strip running in much-reduced capacity. The plant provides safe water for 75,000 people, but without fuel it could come to a halt soon. Medical supplies and medicines have also been provided to hospitals, but given the number of injuries, hospital beds and essential medicine—including anesthetics—are quickly running out.
“A child is a child. Children everywhere must be protected at all times and must never come under attack,” said Russell. “We reiterate the United Nations Secretary-General’s call to rescind the order for over one million Palestinian civilians to leave northern Gaza and to take all possible steps to provide their safety and protection. Every child deserves no less.”