IRIN (reporting from Gaza City), March 23, 2009 - UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann M. Veneman recently paid a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory to assess the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with special focus on children. As of 5 February, 431 Palestinian children had died and 1,872 had been wounded in the 22-day Israeli offensive which ended on 18 January, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Veneman spoke to IRIN in Gaza City during her visit.
IRIN: After visiting Gaza, what are your first impressions and priorities?
Veneman: We focused on the impact of the conflict on children. So often children are the ones that are hurt by the wars of adults. The total population of Gaza is about 1.4 million, of which 56 percent - approximately 793,520 - are children, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Humanitarian access to all, especially to the most vulnerable, must be unhampered.
IRIN: How are the health and nutrition standards for Gaza’s children since the recent war?
Veneman: UNICEF remains concerned that the nutritional status and general health of children in Gaza is likely to deteriorate given the dependency of Gazan families on food aid and cash assistance, as well as the lack of access to clean tap water.
From mid-January, UNICEF has provided basic essential supplements of vitamin A and D, and iron-folate, to 50,000 infants and children under five through health ministry centres and UNRWA [UN agency for Palestinian refugees] clinics.
We saw lines of people [in Gaza] queuing for gas, fuel and food aid. Right now many families are living in tents and with relatives. Certainly a lack of adequate housing can lead to a lack of clean water.....
At the end of February, an UNRWA assessment indicated that 2,350 families need to have their homes reconstructed; 10, 500 families have homes needing repair, and these figures are likely to rise.....