The number of children who have been killed in conflict-torn Gaza in the first four weeks of the war exceeds the total annual number of child casualties in armed conflicts across more than 22 countries since 2020, a new report published on November 9 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) pointed out.
The Israel-Hamas conflict in the Gaza Strip, which broke out on 7 October, had taken the lives of 9,770 people as of November 5, 2023, with 67% of the fatalities being children and women, 4,008 and 2,550 respectively. The death toll has already surpassed the cumulative toll of all previous violence escalations since 2007. Meanwhile, the number of those injured has reached at least 24,808 and about 2,260 people, including 1,270 children, are reported to be missing in Gaza, the report noted.
Fig.1. Total fatalities in Gaza by age and sex during major escalations, 2008–2023
According to the report, over 40,000 housing units have already been demolished, another 222,000 plus have been damaged, meaning that at least 45% of Gaza’s housing units have been affected by the military operations. Educational facilities have also suffered extensively, with 279 schools damaged and 625,000 students in Gaza unable to access education. The healthcare system has been severely affected too, with nearly two-thirds of healthcare centers having been shut down due to damage or fuel shortages. The World Health Organization reported there had been about 102 attacks on healthcare facilities in Gaza as of November 5, 2023.
Estimates provided by the report titled “The Gaza War: Expected Socio-Economic Impacts on the State of Palestine” show that the poverty level in the State of Palestine is expected to increase further, reaching 34% if the conflict continues for a second month and an unprecedented 45% for the third month.
GDP is projected to fall by 8.4%, and 12.2% with total losses of US$1.7 billion and US$2.5 billion if the conflict continues for a second and third month, respectively. During the first month of the conflict, the poverty level has already soared by 20% and GDP has declined by 4.2%. According to the International Labour Organization, 390,000 jobs have been lost due to the conflict.
Fig.2. Impact of one-month, two-month and three-month war scenarios on GDP, private consumption and poverty in the State of Palestine (Percentage change relative to levels expected for 2023)
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said that the impact of the ongoing war will have “long-lasting effects and will not be confined to Gaza. On top of the humanitarian catastrophe we see unfolding, there is also a development crisis. The war is rapidly accelerating poverty in a population already vulnerable before this crisis hit.”
For his part, ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti warned that economic recovery in post-ceasefire Gaza is expected to be challenging:
“Economic recovery in Gaza following a ceasefire will not be immediate, considering the large-scale displacement of the population, the massive levels of destruction and uncertain access to resources, including materials and equipment owing to the siege on Gaza”.
He continued, “At UNDP we join the UN Secretary-General’s call today for two immediate humanitarian actions – unrestricted and sustained humanitarian access to allow life-saving aid into Gaza, and the unconditional release of hostages. To help realize these two appeals, the UN Secretary-General also called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”