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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
18 January 2009

Fighting halts in Gaza but humanitarian challenges remain

NEW YORK, USA, 18 January 2009 – UNICEF emergency supplies are ready to go into the Gaza Strip now that a ceasefire has been declared.

“Our first move is to bring in as much supplies as possible. This is our first priority,” said UNICEF Regional Communication Chief Abdel-Rahman Ghandour.

UNICEF has six truckloads of emergency equipment, including 2,200 hygiene kits, waiting at the border and scheduled to cross into Gaza on Monday. They will be distributed in south and central Gaza as soon as possible.

Restoring a sense of normalcy

Aside from delivering life-saving supplies of food, water and medicines to protect children's physical health, UNICEF is concerned about the mental well-being of children in Gaza and the high level of stress they have been under during three weeks of violence. Another top priority, therefore, will be getting their daily lives back to normal.

In particular, the destruction of schools represents a major setback for children in the territory. UNICEF will move as quickly as it can to repair and rebuild school facilities in order to get them up and running.

UNICEF is also preparing to send in teams of counsellors and mental health experts, in order to help children deal with the violence they have witnessed in the past few weeks.

“We’re talking about a very, very traumatized population,” said Mr. Ghandour.

Danger of unexploded ordnance

Another concern in Gaza is the presence of unexploded munitions, which pose a particular danger for children. UNICEF has prepared radio announcements to try and ensure that the conflict takes no further toll of young lives.

The aim of the radio spots, Mr. Ghandour explained, is “to promote awareness among families in a very dangerous situation, in the aftermath of the conflict, on where to go and how to spot mines and unexploded ordnance.”

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