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Reality of Gaza destruction haunts families and children amid ceasefire

2014-08-07

JERUSALEM, 7 August, 2014 – As the three-day ceasefire in Gaza draws to a close, families are struggling to cope with the aftermath of 28 days of violence and destruction that has left an estimated 65,000 people homeless. 

"Of the last three conflicts in Gaza, this has been the longest, deadliest and most destructive," said June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative in the State of Palestine. "Its human and material toll is beyond words."

More than one fourth of Gaza's residents were displaced during the latest conflict. The three-day ceasefire allowed families to visit their homes, but many had to return to collective shelters when the full extent of the damage to their houses became apparent.

Overcrowding at UN-run shelters, many of them schools, is making it difficult to provide these families with basic needs and clean conditions to prevent the spread of diseases. Diarrhoea and skin diseases among children are on the rise.

Basic services are severely disrupted. Access to water is constrained for 1.5 million people and the lack of electricity is affecting water distribution, sanitation and health services.

Around 400,000 children are showing symptoms of distress, including bed wetting, clinging to parents and nightmares, and need psychosocial support. Half of Gaza's 1.8 million people are children under the age of 18.

From the very first days of the current escalation, UNICEF-supported emergency psychosocial teams have been deployed to provide initial psychosocial support to affected children, reaching 1,870 children across the Gaza Strip so far.

To improve conditions in collective shelters, UNICEF, in partnership with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, distributed 1,500 adult hygiene kits, 1,000 baby hygiene kits, 1,388 jerry cans, and 4,000 blankets. Plans are under way to provide 24,000 clothing items for children and women.

"The uphill struggle to heal children's physical and psychological wounds and restore Gaza's demolished infrastructure is a gargantuan task," Kunugi said.

According to UNICEF's latest verified figures, at least 429 children were killed in the last month as a result of airstrikes and shelling, an indication of the devastating toll that the latest escalation of violence has taken on Gaza's youngest and most vulnerable.

Since the ceasefire went into effect on Monday morning, no additional child deaths have been recorded.

At least 2,744 children have also been reported injured. Some of the young victims, who suffered debilitating injuries for which no treatment is available in Gaza, need to be referred for treatment outside the coastal enclave.

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Note to editors: UNICEF has been in Gaza since the early 1990s, working to support children and families with access to basic services including water, sanitation education, health and mine-awareness. UNICEF needs approximately $14 million to respond to the mounting humanitarian needs caused by this latest escalation.

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UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.