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

UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate, Queen Rania, speaks out on Gaza crisis

AMMAN, Jordan, 5 January 2009 – At a UNICEF-organized press conference here this morning, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah made an urgent plea on behalf of all the civilians living in Gaza – especially children – for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and for the international community to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering.

Queen Rania, who is UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, was accompanied by UNICEF Regional Director Sigrid Kaag and other UN agency representatives.

In an urgent message to world leaders, Her Majesty warned that “our humanity is incomplete when children, irrespective of nationality, are victims of military operations.” She called on all nations to “act to end the fighting and open all crossings, especially Karni, to permit the uninterrupted passage of wheat, fuel, medicine and other vital supplies.

A call for relief

“More than 70 dead children. Close to 600 injured,” Queen Rania continued. “What does the world tell to their mothers? To the Palestinian mother who lost five daughters in one day? To the mothers watching their children cry in pain, huddle in fear and deal with more trauma than any of us will experience in an entire lifetime?

“That they are collateral damage? That their lives don’t matter? That their deaths don’t count?… What do we tell them?”

Referring to a United Nations Relief and Works Agency call for international aid, Queen Rania concluded: “At the very least, governments should – governments must – contribute to UNRWA’s emergency appeal for $34 million to meet the immediate needs of Gaza’s innocent civilians.

In addition to Ms. Kaag, Queen Rania was accompanied in Amman by UNRWA Deputy Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi, World Health Organization Special Representative Dr. Guido Sabatinelli and World Food Programme Deputy Director Jacques Higgins.

Children bear the brunt

In a separate statement, Ms. Kaag noted that women and children are bearing the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Children form the majority of the population and are most in need of protection, psychological assistance and medical support,” she said. “The number of children affected by the loss of a parent, damage to their home, displacement, lack of needed medical equipment and treatment, and the interruption of their education is yet to be fully measured. But it is significant. In southern Israel, a school has been hit."

“UNICEF reiterates its call for an immediate end to the violence, to allow humanitarian aid and relief efforts to be fully deployed, and urges all parties to the conflict to abide by their international legal obligation to ensure that children are protected,” Ms. Kaag added. “Children can no longer be the silent victims and unheard voices of a conflict. Their long suffering must be brought to an end.”

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