During a weeklong humanitarian pause in the Gaza Strip, UNICEF rapidly scaled up emergency assistance to children and families caught in a spiraling crisis. More help is urgently needed.
The humanitarian pause that began on the morning of Nov. 24, 2023, lasted for just seven days before the bombardment of the Gaza Strip resumed on Dec. 1. More than 30 children held hostage in Gaza were released and reunited with their families; 17 women and children are reportedly still being held. The temporary ceasefire offered only a brief respite for Gazan civilians and children who have been exposed to intense violence and grave violations over the past six weeks.
During that weeklong window, UNICEF and partners significantly scaled up operations on the ground for children and families trapped in an increasingly dire situation. Up to 1.8 million people, half of whom are children, are displaced inside Gaza, with nowhere safe to go. The majority are staying in crowded shelters run by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, with severely limited access to water, sanitation and hygiene.
UNICEF used the brief humanitarian pause to increase delivery of essentials to children and families trapped in a war zone
UNICEF distributed 10,000 locally procured family hygiene kits in northern Gaza, benefitting more than 50,000 people, and provided recreational activities for 13,500 children, including 6,884 girls and 107 children with disabilities, in 31 shelters for the internally displaced across Khan Younis, Deir Al Balah, Rafah, An Nuseirat and Bani Suhila communities and camps in southern Gaza. Vaccination activities also resumed as three essential vaccines were extracted from the central warehouses in Gaza City and transported to southern Gaza through a mission led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
A total of ten unaccompanied and separated children (three in Gaza and seven in the West Bank) were identified by UNICEF and registered during the temporary ceasefire. Case management provisions are being coordinated with UNRWA.
A rush to deliver more supplies as cold, wet weather sets in
The weeklong pause allowed UNICEF to:
- deliver critical water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supplies to 60,000 people
- provide emergency and child protection services to 9,723 children and caregivers affected by conflict-related violence
- reach 2,740 children with recreational activities to support their well-being
- distribute multi-purpose cash assistance to 7,345 families
“This was not nearly enough to meet the scale of the humanitarian needs, but it was a start," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said on Dec. 1. "Now, we need increased safe and predictable access to reach those children who have been injured, displaced and traumatized. And we need to get supplies to children who are vulnerable to the cold, wet weather that has arrived."
Children in Gaza face a humanitarian catastrophe
Before the pause, more than 5,300 Palestinian children were reportedly killed in 48 days of relentless bombing, a figure that does not include the many children still missing and presumed to be buried beneath the rubble.
“Should violence return to this scale and intensity, we can assume that hundreds more children will be killed and injured every day," said Russell. "And if we are not able to get water, food, medical supplies, blankets and warm clothes to those in need, we will face a humanitarian catastrophe."
UNICEF continues to call for a lasting humanitarian ceasefire. “We call on all parties to ensure that children are protected and assisted, in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law," said Russell. "All children in the State of Palestine and Israel deserve peace and hope for a better future.”
UNICEF won't stop working to meet the needs of children currently facing an urgent and pressing need for protection and humanitarian assistance. Your contribution can make a difference. Please donate today.