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By Erin Rutherford
17 October 2023

Our hearts are breaking with and for the children of Israel and Gaza, after the ongoing crisis escalated dramatically on 7 October 2023.

Children who should be in schools are in hospitals, fleeing their homes and losing their loved ones.  They are seeing things no child should see – the destruction of their homes and violence towards the people they love most. No place is safe for children in conflict zones.

In all wars, children suffer first and suffer most — that’s why UNICEF’s priority right now is the safety of all children, no matter what.

"A child is a child. Children everywhere must be protected at all times and must never come under attack."

Catherine Russell
UNICEF Executive Director

What’s happening for the children of Gaza?

In Gaza, 1.1 million people – nearly half of them children – have been warned to leave their homes ahead of what is expected to be further escalating hostilities in one of the most densely populated places on earth. These children and their families have nowhere safe to go and many are running out of critical food, water and electricity, following days of air strikes and cuts to all supply routes. Medicine and safe access to hospitals is severely restricted.  

It can be hard to put that into perspective, but for these five little ones it’s the reality they’re facing this week as they flee their homes to a school for safety:

Child standing in front of classrooms where they are sheltering during the Gaza crisis© UNICEF/UNI453282/Islyeh

"Me and my family arrived to the school, because it is safer here. I do not know what happened to my house, probably destroyed with all my books and toys."

Ahmad, 6
Child in yellow shirt standing in front of classrooms where they are sheltering during the Gaza crisis© UNICEF/UNI453278/Islyeh

"I do not like it here, it is crowded, I just want to go home."

Sileen, 4
Child standing in playground where they are sheltering during the Gaza crisis © UNICEF 2023

"We escaped from the continued airstrikes. During the night, we could not sleep because of the repeated bombing. It was very, very terrifying!"

Issa, 9
Child in pink shirt in school where they are sheltering during the Gaza crisis © UNICEF 2023

"The war broke out, our house was destroyed, and we fled to a school. There is no clean drinking water, not enough food, and no bathrooms."

Haya, 9
Child standing inside a school where her family is sheltering from the Gaza crisis © UNICEF 2023

"Our house was bombed over our heads and we didn’t know what to do. My father said we would go to a school, seeking protection."


UNICEF calls for the immediate protection of children while working to ensure children can access essential health, education and child protection services. Our objective is to ensure that every child, irrespective of background or circumstance, can grow up in peace and free from the shadow of violence.  

Our teams will continue to respond to the critical needs of children across the Gaza Strip, but access is becoming increasingly difficult and dangerous. While humanitarians have been warned to move out of Gaza city, UNICEF staff will stay in southern Gaza to continue to provide support for children in need.

During these difficult times, compassion and hope must prevail — it is the only way we can keep going in the face of such tragedy.

Please note that the information in this article was accurate at the time of publication. As the crisis continues to unfold, all of us here at UNICEF are devastated by the impact on children and the horrific loss of life, and we call for an immediate ceasefire.