On the Ground in Gaza with Janti Soeripto

On April 5, 2024 Save the Children U.S. President & Chief Executive Officer Janti Soeripto testified to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian conditions inside of Gaza, which she witnessed firsthand just days prior when she visited Gaza. Here, she discusses what she saw and the need for a ceasefire and unimpeded humanitarian access.

Written by Save the Children U.S. President & Chief Executive Officer Janti Soeripto

I just got back from Gaza, and even though it’s hard to write and hard to hear, I need to tell you what I saw.

Children are everywhere you look in Rafah, many without shoes. Children are not in school; instead, they’re running around searching for food and clean water. The chairs, desks and books that survived bombing are being burned by desperate civilians trying to stay warm. 

Think of the traumas these children and families are experiencing. The horrors they continue to live through. Not one child should be exposed to such death and violence. One mother told me: “We need mental health support more than food.” That’s saying something with 1 in 3 children under the age of 2 severely malnourished.

Almost 350,000 children under the age of 5 are at risk of starvation as we speak. The world is staring down the barrel of a man-made famine.

As children get hungry, their bodies weaken. Their muscles waste, vision blurs, immune systems fail. At this stage, children are too weak to cry. Organs fail, hearts stop. Severe malnutrition is not a quiet or painless death.

Families are sheltering under pieces of plastic with just a couple of wooden poles. Quite often, many people share a very small space. Infectious diseases and lack of hygiene are some of the biggest risks, with one bathroom for up to 1,000 people. One bathroom per 1,000 people. Can you imagine? 

Overall, the situation in Gaza is as dire as it comes. All of the humanitarians I’ve met are telling me the same thing: They’ve never seen anything like it. 

Human life is not being prioritized – not the lives of civilians, of children and women and certainly not the lives of humanitarians.

203 humanitarian workers have been killed in Gaza – the highest number of humanitarian casualties in modern times. Nearly all have been Palestinian. They died serving their communities in, perhaps, the worst conditions of their lives, of their careers. 

One of my own colleagues, Sameh Ewaida, was killed in an Israeli air strike on 12 December, along with his entire family. This strike came days after a ceasefire resolution was vetoed.

We need action. We need change. And, we need it now.

But the solutions here are pretty straightforward.

  1. We need a definitive ceasefire. Give humanitarians safe access and a ceasefire, and we can save lives. 
  2. We need all hostages safely released. 
  3. More humanitarian aid must be allowed to enter Gaza.
  4. And humanitarians need to be able to do their work – delivering food, water and shelter – safely and securely.

Save the Children knows how to stabilize children dying of malnutrition. We know how to treat diarrheal diseases. We know because these are fatal threats to young children, and because we address them all over the world and have for a century. This isn’t rocket science – it’s delicate but straightforward work. And we’re experts in it.

These children should not be starving or malnourished in the first place, but they also shouldn’t die of those conditions. These deaths are preventable. 

What I saw and heard in Gaza was dehumanizing, not only for the people in Gaza. It’s dehumanizing for all of us, if we stand by and let it happen.

As bad as things are for children, we won’t lose hope. We can’t. 

Please keep our teams and their families in your thoughts. I fear there is still a long road ahead.

Related News and Features


Thank you for signing up! Now, you’ll be among the first to know how Save the Children is responding to the most urgent needs of children, every day and in times of crisis—and how your support can make a difference. You may opt-out at any time by clicking "unsubscribe" at the bottom of any email.

By providing my mobile phone number, I agree to receive recurring text messages from Save the Children (48188) and phone calls with opportunities to donate and ways to engage in our mission to support children around the world. Text STOP to opt-out, HELP for info. Message & data rates may apply. View our Privacy Policy at savethechildren.org/privacy.