Fourteen-year-old Doha and her family sought refuge in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.
Emergency Response

The Unheard Voices of Adolescents in Gaza

Children struggling to survive amid ongoing bombardment in the Gaza Strip yearn for a world "brimming with joy, free from violence and bloodshed."

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens further, children are paying the highest price

After more than 200 days of war, an estimated 1 million children in the Gaza Strip are struggling to meet basic needs for food, water, shelter and medical support. They did not start the conflict, but they are suffering most from its consequences — and children with disabilities are among of the most affected. They are often unable to flee the violence and are at high risk of abandonment, malnutrition and trauma.

According to a UNICEF partner on the ground, “children with disabilities bear the brunt of the situation, where evacuation and response plans did not take their needs into consideration. Many who use wheelchairs are stuck in tents put up on sandy grounds.”

Children with disabilities are at heightened risk in conflict zones

Over the past seven months, a staggering number of children have been wounded amid intense attacks, their lives forever changed by the horrors of war. 

The total number of children injured is difficult to ascertain, but the most recent data available from the Palestinian Ministry of Health documents more than 12,000 children injured in Gaza since the start of the hostilities. This is almost certainly an underestimate because only a small number of all reported injuries are disaggregated to specify when it is a child that has been injured. 

Many children have had existing disabilities worsened or acquired secondary or new disabilities since the start of the war. UNICEF partners describe children who have lost their hearing due to blasts, children who have lost limbs due to amputations and children who can no longer speak due to shock and trauma. 

Duha, 14, signs with her mother, Iman, in front of their tent in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.
Duha, 14, signs with her mother, Iman, in front of their tent in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. "Duha has been a beacon of happiness from the moment she was born. Her hearing loss did not change her vibrant spirit," says Iman. "As the eldest sibling, Duha takes on many tasks, like water collection, which is particularly challenging due to the distance and the weight she must carry. Life in the tent is fraught with hardship. The escalating prices have made basic survival a relentless struggle.” © UNICEF/UNI549472/El Baba

From 14-year-old Duha, a call for peace

Originally from Beit Hanoun in northeastern Gaza, 14-year-old Duha and her family moved to Rafah in the south in search of safety. Now sharing a tiny tent with nine family members, she maintains a youthful optimism despite limited support to accommodate her hearing loss. Food and water scarcity mark their daily lives.

"Life is incredibly challenging, and the conditions are dire," Duha says. "We left everything behind when we evacuated. The absence of basic things like clothes and blankets deeply affects me."

Duha, 14, sits next to her 3-year-old sister Malak in their tent in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.
Duha, 14, sits next to her 3-year-old sister Malak in their family's tent in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip. © UNICEF/UNI549477/El Baba

UNICEF personal care kits give adolescent girls a semblance of normalcy and dignity

Even going to the bathroom is an ordeal. The only available latrine is a long way away, and the walk is not a safe one. "It makes me so afraid, so I limit my trips to once a day," says Duha.

To support the well-being of girls like Duha, UNICEF is distributing adolescent girls' personal care kits. The kits contain information on health care, menstrual hygiene and gender-based violence prevention, along with sanitary pads, underwear, skin wipes, a wash cloth, feminine wash, a whistle and a headscarf.

"The kit I received was a lifeline helping me keep myself clean," says Duha. "The sanitary pads were a godsend, sparing me from resorting to makeshift solutions."

Despite everything, Duha tries to stay positive. "I maintain my cheerfulness and love for life," she says. "My optimism endures, fueled by the hope for an end to the war and a fresh start. My heartfelt message to the world emphasizes the beauty of peace over the devastation of war. Let's champion a world brimming with joy, free from violence and bloodshed."

Fourteen-year-old Duha, right is a deaf girl originally from Beit Hanon, northern Gaza Strip and now displaced in Rafah, southern Gaza.
Fourteen-year-old Duha, right, is struggling to keep her spirits up after more than seven months of war.  "I'm a 14-year-old with seven siblings," she says. "Life is incredibly challenging, and the conditions are dire." © UNICEF/UNI549482/El Baba

Finding comfort in art 

Fourteen-year-old Nour has difficulty talking and hearing; she finds peace in the strokes of her pencils, drawing scenes far removed from the playgrounds she remembers from the days before the war. "I'm very upset because the war has prevented me from seeing my school friends," she says. Amid the turmoil, her thoughts often wander to her teacher and classmates. She hopes they're still alive and their school building is still standing. 

Nour's hearing is impaired, but even so, the echoes of war are never far away. "To avoid hearing the sound of bombing, I cover my ears," she says. The lack of electricity prevents her from connecting with her friends online, deepening her isolation. 

Amal, 13, and her family were displaced by the war in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip.
"We have been displaced four times and we now live with my uncle’s family in Al-Mawasi, but there is no space here for us," says 13-year-old Amal. "We were displaced from the north to Khan Younis, from Khan Younis to Rafah, and then from Rafah to the Al-Mawasi area. There is no water here, it is difficult to find it, and we end up drinking salt water." © UNICEF

UNICEF and partners are staying to deliver for children in Gaza 

“All progress to provide services for children with disabilities in the Gaza Strip has been reversed,” says Ibtisam Abu Shammala, Education Officer in UNICEF's Gaza Field Office. Roads, schools, health facilities and rehabilitation centers have been destroyed. Service providers themselves are displaced and living in makeshift tents. Most do not have computers, offices or internet connection to work.

Yet despite the high personal cost of staying in the Gaza Strip, Ibtisam and other colleagues in the Gaza Field Office have stayed to deliver for children, along with partners that are still operational.

Mohammed, 14, holds his 2-year-old brother Khaled in front of their tent in al-Mawasi, Gaza Strip.
Mohammed, 14, holds his 2-year-old brother Khaled in front of their tent in Al-Mawasi, Gaza Strip. "Since the beginning of the war, my family has been displaced four times. I miss my home, my room and my friends. This war has lasted for a long time, and I am afraid for Khaled,” Mohammad said. © UNICEF/UNI577004/Media Clinic

For every child, peace

These stories, just a few of many, highlight the critical need for tailored support to ensure the well-being of adolescents affected by conflict, echoing a collective wish for peace.

UNICEF has also partnered with a local NGO to visit injured children in hospitals to provide psychological first aid. Each child's needs are comprehensively assessed by a multidisciplinary team composed of a doctor, a social worker, a psychologist and a physiotherapist/occupational therapist. Children in need of support receive case management to provide them with the necessary services, including assistive devices. 

But this is not enough.

It is key that humanitarian aid reaches children in need in the Gaza Strip at scale, including assistive devices such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics. In addition, urgent medical cases must be able to safely access critical health services or be allowed to leave. Sick and injured children who are evacuated must be accompanied by family members. And with more children injured every day, the number of medical evacuations must increase so children can access the care they urgently need.  

Above all else, the children of Gaza need an immediate ceasefire. It is the only way to stop the killing and maiming of children.  

Learn more about UNICEF's emergency response in the Gaza Strip. 

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This story was adapted from the original published on


TOP PHOTO: Originally from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, 14-year-old Duha, who is deaf, and her family sought refuge in Rafah in the south. Now they are being told to move yet again, but there is nowhere safe for them to go. © UNICEF/UNI549478/El Baba