The humanitarian disaster in Gaza, in which over one million children are now at risk of being killed, has been compounded by the impacts of climate change, says Save the Children as the Gaza crisis takes a spotlight at the COP28 summit in Dubai.
Prior to the escalation of violence on 7 October, the 16-year land, sea and air blockade imposed by the Government of Israel had already accelerated the environmental decline of Gaza and exacerbated unequal access to natural resources, making the population uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of the current crisis.
In particular, the shortage of drinking water in Gaza – now a critical issue for the entire population of 2.3 million people – was already a major concern with families having extremely limited water to drink, forcing some to drink from untreated wells.
The 16-year-blockade had already limited the entry of goods and materials required to maintain existing, and develop new, water and sanitation infrastructure. Now, the massive and ongoing violence has exacerbated an already dire situation, with the World Health Organisation warning that intense overcrowding and damaged and disrupted health, water, and sanitation systems will lead to a public health emergency.
Mohamad Al Asmar, Advocacy & Resource Mobilization Director for Save the Children in the Middle East, and currently in Dubai attending COP28, said:
“The current crisis in Gaza is both a violent conflict, and a slow-burning eradication of children’s rights, fuelled by international neglect, a failure of leadership, and the climate crisis. The over a million children with their lives on the line in Gaza were already on the frontline of the climate crisis. If you are a child in Gaza, you will have no memory of a life without water shortages, created by political action – the blockade – and inaction – on climate change.
“The health and environmental impacts of climate change cannot be contained within specific territories or across borders, and are likely to impact across the region, including in Israel.
“Again and again, more than one million Palestinian children have been deprived of their basic rights. We need an immediate ceasefire and an end to the blockade as the only way to keep children safe and preserve their future. “
Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory are part of an already water stressed region in the Middle East that is feeling the effects of climate change, with water scarcity set to increase. The region is projected to face the highest increase globally in river floods, crop failures and droughts, and is facing rising temperatures well above the 1.5°C that global leaders have committed to. 
The World Bank recently reported that aquifers, the strips main source of water, is facing the negative impacts of rising sea levels and salt water.  Water in the West Bank is also under strain. Half of the wells owned by Palestinians have dried up over the last 25 years. 
Across the middle east and north Africa, over 10 million children in the region face the triple threat of climate risk, poverty and conflict.  Almost 1 million children are living in Gaza, and the ongoing bombardment of north and south of Gaza has forcibly displaced thousands of people and children; facing nearly two months without adequate shelter, water, food and healthcare.
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.