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Reality of Gaza destruction haunts families and children

Reality of Gaza destruction haunts families and children amid ceasefire

8 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.

Vivien Maidaborn, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ said, “Children in Gaza have witnessed unthinkable horrors and no family has been left untouched by this crisis.

“Basic needs like food and water as well as psychosocial support are urgently needed to help children and families cope with the trauma they are experiencing,” Ms Maidaborn added.

"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. UNICEF is currently assisting with the restoration of critical water supplies and access.

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 adult hygiene kits, baby hygiene kits, jerry cans, and blankets. Plans are under way to provide 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.

Ms Maidaborn added, “We continue to urge New Zealanders to show their support for the children of Gaza by donating online at www.unicef.org.nz/Gaza or by texting HELP to 2923 to donate $3 so that we can get urgently needed supplies to those that require them most.”

ENDS

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