22 December 2023, RAMALLAH – About 893,000 children are likely to now be internally displaced in Gaza, meaning an average of nearly 12,000 children a day have been forced to flee – many multiple times – since Israeli authorities launched their military operations following the attack on Israel on 7 October, said Save the Children.
About 1.9 million people are estimated to be internally displaced in southern Gaza, according to the UN, representing nearly 85% of the enclave’s entire population, with children making up almost 50% of this figure. The proportion of the population displaced within Gaza in just ten weeks is now also one of the highest recorded globally, according to an analysis by Save the Children.
With the Government of Israel now issuing new evacuation orders in the southern city of Khan Younis, children and families are being pushed into even smaller areas further south, creating extreme, cramped conditions with nowhere safe from violence. Save the Children staff have witnessed people being injured from being crushed in crowds while waiting for desperately limited supplies of food and water.
Israeli authorities have been pushing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, including children, further and further south into increasingly smaller areas since 7 October, with the in the Rafah governorate now exceeding 12,000 people per square kilometre – more than one and a half times the population density of Singapore.
Many people in Gaza have been displaced multiple times and are now fleeing areas they were told would be safe. People have been seeking refuge anywhere they can – in overcrowded shelters, hospitals, schools, or relatives’ houses. People and civilian infrastructures such as hospitals and schools that are granted special protection and safety under international law have come under fire and bombardment.
Feras*, a farmer living in a crowded shelter with his family in Khan Younis said:
“We were like a tree being uprooted from the land…We were asked to go to southern Gaza, and we had to follow the instructions to keep our children safe. And here we are…it doesn’t feel safe either…Bombing and rockets are still fired around us…Children need space to play, but we are cramped here…It’s not a proper life anymore.”
Shelters are more than four times their capacity, leaving many with no choice but to sleep amongst rubbish in the street, posing a momentous risk to the health of almost an entire population. Children are without proper clothes, and people cannot find shoes, mattresses, or tents, despite winter now bringing cold and wet weather.
Jason Lee, Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said:
“In Gaza, these figures reveal a horrifying reality. 85% of people displaced, 890,000 children – these aren’t just statistics, it’s a stark reminder that an entire population is in real danger. Children are having their entire lives and any sense of safety ripped away again and again. Losing everything, desperately fleeing their homes under fire to save their lives, with nowhere to go – now imagine it happening again and again. This must stop.”
Save the Children is calling on the international community to secure an immediate and definitive ceasefire and for the Government of Israel to reverse the conditions that have made a meaningful humanitarian response almost impossible, including unfettered humanitarian access to all of Gaza, and the restoration of the entry of commercial goods into Gaza. The Government of Israel must ensure the basic needs of the population are met and must stop the forcible displacement of civilians, in line with their obligations under international law.
Save the Children has been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children since 1953. Save the Children’s team in the occupied Palestinian territory has been working around the clock, prepositioning vital supplies to support people in need, and working to find ways to get assistance into Gaza.