UNICEF seeks humanitarian access in Gaza to provide aid to children

Published May 19, 2021, 2:29 PM

by Jaleen Ramos

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is seeking immediate access into Gaza to provide aid to children bearing the effects of escalating clashes between Israelis and Palestinians.

A man mourns over the bodies of three children from the Al-Tanani family and a fourth child, killed in a reported Israeli air strike, before their burial in Beit Lahya in northern Gaza strip, on May 14, 2021. (Mohammed ABED / AFP/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“UNICEF is calling for the 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,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We are also calling 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,” she added.

At least 60 children have been killed in Gaza, with 444 injured in less than 10 days. Nearly 30,000 children have been displaced.

“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,” Fore said.

The agency called on both sides to step back and end the violence immediately.

“Each and every day the conflict continues, children across the State of Palestine and Israel will suffer,” Fore 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.” UNICEF also emphasized the need for mental health and protection services for some 250,000 children.

Nearly 40 schools have also been damaged and around 48 schools, most of them run by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), are being used as emergency shelters for families seeking refuge from the violence, it added.

The executive director also addressed the problems of lack of sanitation, water supply, and electricity in Gaza.

“The already weakened water and sanitation systems have been further compromised as a result of this latest escalation,” Fore said.

“Essential infrastructure – including groundwater wells and reservoirs, desalination and wastewater plants, water delivery networks and pumping stations – have sustained significant damage,” she said.

She added that an estimate of 325,000 people need emergency water and sanitation services, without which, they are more likely to contract potentially deadly infectious diseases.

“Electricity output across Gaza has dropped by roughly 60 percent, leaving hospitals increasingly dependent on generators for the provision of essential healthcare services. These generators require significant amounts of fuel to function,” said Fore, adding that any reduction in health care capacity could also jeopardize treatment for those with COVID-19.

The continuous aerial exchanges between Israel and Palestine claimed more lives on both sides Tuesday as Palestinians protest in a “day of rage” in the West Bank and Jerusalem At least 217 Palestinians have been killed, including 63 children, and more than 1,400 people were wounded in just over a week, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

In Israel, the death toll rose to 12 after rockets strike at the southern Eshkol region, killing two Thai nationals working in a factory and wounding several others.