UNICEF Director: Terror in Gaza must stop now

In a statement, UNICEF’s director emphasizes the devastating situation in Gaza, especially for children, calling for a ceasefire.

  • Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, February 25, 2022. (AP)

The Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Catherine Russell, described the scenes she witnessed during a rare visit to Gaza as “tragic”, urging a stop to this “terror”.

Russell emphasized that what she saw and heard “was heartbreaking,” adding, “They have endured bombing, loss and repeated displacement within the Strip. There is no safe place for Gaza’s million children to take refuge.”

She added that grave violations are being committed against children, including killing, mutilation, kidnapping, attacks on schools and hospitals, the prevention of the arrival of humanitarian aid, all of which UNICEF condemns, stressing that more than 10,000 children were murdered in Gaza.

Russell stated that many children “are missing and are believed to be buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings and homes, which is the tragic result of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.” 

Russell also stressed that this horror must stop, calling for the implementation of an immediate ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, for the safe release of all kidnapped and detained children, and to ensure safe, sustainable, and unhindered access through humanitarian agencies to all of those in need of various services and life-saving supplies.

She also mentioned that she visited Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis where she met with patients and displaced families seeking shelter and safety. One of the people she met was a bedridden 16-year-old  who told Russell her family’s home was bombed and that she survived, but doctors say that she will never be able to walk again.

UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described UNRWA as the “backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza” in a statement on January 31, urging countries to ensure its endurance and “lifesaving work” in the Strip. 

This comes amid a movement to stigmatize the agency’s credibility after “Israel” accused 12 of its members of being affiliated with the October 7 operation conducted by the Palestinian Resistance. As a result, an abundance of countries have opted to defund the organization, primarily led by its biggest funder, the United States. 

Guterres told the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People that the allegations personally horrified him, adding that he had spoken to the donors on Tuesday to reassure them that action has been and will continue to be taken to counter incidents like these, although these claims were never proven true. 

UN relief chief Martin Griffith, in a meeting in front of the UN Security Council on Gaza, echoed UNRWA’s vitality in Gaza, affirming that humanitarian operations in Gaza rely solely on the continuity of the funding the organization receives.

“To put it very simply and bluntly: our humanitarian response for the occupied Palestinian territory is dependent, completely dependent, on UNRWA being adequately funded and operational.”

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