Children in Gaza bear the brunt of Israeli attack: OCHA

NEW YORK - President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Jakob Kellenberger today described what he saw in Gaza as ‘shocking’.

By (Wam)

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Published: Thu 15 Jan 2009, 6:48 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:37 AM

”What I saw today was shocking. It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed”, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) quoted Kellenberger in its latest field update On Gaza.

Kellenberger was on a visit to the Gaza Strip which is still under a barrage of Israeli attack since December 27th, 2008.

”The humanitarian crisis is intensifying and the number of Palestinian civilian casualties is increasing”, OCHA said adding that Israeli bombardment is causing extensive destruction to homes and to public infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip and is jeopardizing water, sanitation and medical services.

Palestinians, OCHA added, continue to flee their homes seeking refuge from the hostilities. Medical staff report large numbers of blast injuries due to high explosives, resulting in traumatic injuries and amputations.

OCHA’s report said children, who make up 56 percent of the Gaza population, continue to bear the brunt of the Isreali attack and account for a significant proportion of the dead and severely maimed.

Pockets of the population are trapped in their homes with aid organizations unable to access these communities.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) figures as of 1600 hours 14 January are 1,013 Palestinians dead, of whom 322 are children and 76 are women. The number of injured stands at 4,560, of whom 1,600 are children and 678 are women.

The MoH reported on 12 January that the number of children fatalities has tripled since the beginning of the ground operation on 3 January (compared to the number of child fatalities from 27 December to 3 January).

The danger to medical staff and the difficulty of extracting the injured from collapsed buildings makes proper evacuation and estimation of casualties difficult, including the determination of the number of Palestinian male civilian casualties.

The total number of displaced people in Gaza remains unknown, because the majority of them have sought refuge in the homes of relatives and friends, including an estimated 20,000 people who reportedly left their homes in Rafah on 8 January. As of 13 January, UNRWA was operating 41 shelters with 37,937 people (an increase of more than 3,000 from 13 January). Following heavy bombardment during the night of 13 January in northern Gaza, there are reports that many people fled on foot to shelters in Jabalia (3km) and Gaza (5km).

OCHA expressed concern over the security for medical personnel and access to medical facilities continues to be of major concern. Attacks on medical personnel and ambulances have hampered the ability to assist the injured.

Since 27 December 2008, 13 medical personnel have been killed and 22 medical personnel have been injured while on duty; 15 ambulances have been damaged and seven ambulances have been destroyed; and twelve health facilities have been damaged through direct or indirect shelling, said OCHA who quoted figures by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Gaza.

”On 13 January, an ambulance from Nasser Hospital, attempting to reach a wounded woman in Khuza’a village east of Khan Yunis, was fired at. The paramedic was forced to take refuge in a nearby house until the evening when the Israeli army withdrew. By the time the ambulance succeeded in evacuating the woman to the hospital, she had died.” WHO reports that the Dorah Pediatric Hospital, on the outskirts of Gaza City, was shelled for the second time on 13 January.

Hospitals, OCHA said, remain overloaded, notably intensive care units, due to the large influx of injured persons. In addition to the issue of access of medical personnel to war injured, WHO remains concerned about the provision of health care services for the entire population.

A key challenge for the Gaza population is accessing food items due to the security situation, both for farmers to access their fields and for the population to access shops.

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