UNICEF/Eyad El Baba
New York: At least 60 youngsters have been killed in Gaza and another 444 have been injured in less than 10 days of conflict with Israel, the head of UN Children’s Fund has said, in a call for an immediate ceasefire and aid access to “stave off disaster”.
“Gaza’s one million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn. Lives have been lost and families shattered,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
Ms. Fore’s comments late on Tuesday came as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also reported that only five trucks in a 24-vehicle humanitarian convoy had been able to enter southern Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israeli authorities closed only hours after reopening it, blaming militants who they said had launched mortars at it.
According to the UNICEF chief, nearly 30,000 children have been displaced in the Occupied Palestinian Territory enclave since 10 May.
This underscores the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds to allow the entry of staff and essential supplies, including fuel, medical items, first-aid kits and COVID-19 vaccines”.
Ms. Fore also appealed for the establishment of humanitarian corridors “so that we can deliver these supplies safely, so that families can reunite and access essential services, and so that the sick or wounded can be evacuated”.
An estimated 250,000 children need mental health and protection services, she continued, while at least four health facilities and 40 schools have been damaged in Gaza since weeks of tensions escalated into Palestinian rocket fire into Israel and Israeli airstrikes.
Electricity provision across Gaza “has dropped by roughly 60 per cent, leaving hospitals increasingly dependent on generators” to provide essential healthcare services.
“These generators require significant amounts of fuel to function,” Ms. Fore said, adding that any reduction in health care capacity could also jeopardize treatment for those with COVID-19”.
Schools now shelters
Some 48 schools – most of them run by UNRWA – are being used as emergency shelters for families seeking refuge from the violence, the UNICEF top official noted.
“Each and every day the conflict continues, children across the State of Palestine and Israel will suffer,” she said. “These children need a ceasefire now, as well as a long-term political solution to the broader conflict. They deserve far better than this horrible cycle of violence and fear that has gone on for far too long.”
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