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UNICEF chief calls for immediate ceasefire, aid access to stave off disaster in Mideast
update:May 21,2021
UNITED NATIONS, May 21,2021 -- The head of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is calling for an immediate ceasefire and aid access to stave off disaster in the Middle East, UN News reported Wednesday.
"Gaza's 1 million children are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn. Lives have been lost and families shattered," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
Fore's comments late on Tuesday came as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also reported that only five trucks in a 24-vehicle humanitarian convoy had been able to enter southern Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing, which Israeli authorities closed only hours after reopening it, blaming militants who they said had launched mortars at it.
According to the UNICEF chief, nearly 30,000 children have been displaced in the occupied Palestinian territory enclave since May 10.
This underscores the need for "an immediate cessation of hostilities on humanitarian grounds to allow the entry of staff and essential supplies, including fuel, medical items, first-aid kits and COVID-19 vaccines."
Fore also appealed for the establishment of humanitarian corridors "so that we can deliver these supplies safely, so that families can reunite and access essential services, and so that the sick or wounded can be evacuated."
An estimated 250,000 children need mental health and protection services, she continued, while at least four health facilities and 40 schools have been damaged in Gaza since weeks of tensions escalated into Palestinian rocket fire into Israel and Israeli airstrikes.
Electricity provision across Gaza "has dropped by roughly 60 percent, leaving hospitals increasingly dependent on generators" to provide essential healthcare services.
"These generators require significant amounts of fuel to function," Fore said, adding that any reduction in health care capacity could also jeopardize treatment for those with COVID-19."
Some 48 schools - most of them run by UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestine refugees, are being used as emergency shelters for families seeking refuge from the violence, the UNICEF top official noted.
"Each and every day the conflict continues, children across the State of Palestine and Israel will suffer," she said.
"These children need a ceasefire now, as well as a long-term political solution to the broader conflict. They deserve far better than this horrible cycle of violence and fear that has gone on for far too long."
UNRWA launched a flash appeal on Wednesday for 38 million U.S. dollars to cover the most urgent needs of Gazans and those living on the West Bank, as the violence continues.
The appeal calls for prioritizing immediate needs for food, health and psychosocial support, following the continuing bombardment of Gaza by Israeli. UNRWA said it would assess subsequent needs once the security situation allows, according to the UN News. 
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