The impact of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine on children is extremely destructive.
During his trip to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths spoke with families in Gaza over the phone from east Jerusalem on Tuesday. He expressed his concern for the suffering they have faced since Israel began retaliating against Hamas’ deadly attacks on October 7th, stating that it is “unimaginably devastating”.
“It’s difficult not to feel powerless when an eight-year-old expresses the fear of dying,” he stated on social media platform X.
The relatives of the hostages are enduring great suffering.
I met with the relatives of over 230 hostages who have been held in Gaza since October 7th. Approximately 30 of these hostages, who were taken by Hamas terrorists, are children.
According to the UN’s relief leader, these families have been in a state of distress for weeks, uncertain of the fate of their loved ones. He expressed his inability to comprehend the extent of their suffering.
The United Nations has continuously demanded the prompt and unconditional liberation of the captives.
The idea of children being trapped under debris is unbearable.
According to UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, the Ministry of Health run by Hamas has reported that over 3,450 children have lost their lives in Gaza. This information was shared with reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.
According to the UN’s office for coordinating humanitarian affairs (OCHA), an additional one thousand children have been declared missing and could potentially be stuck or deceased beneath the debris, in need of being saved or located.
According to OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke, the thought of children trapped under debris with little chance of being rescued is almost too much to bear.
There will be many years of suffering to come.
UNICEF representative James Elder emphasized that the dangers faced in Gaza extend beyond physical violence. He noted that the lack of functioning desalination plants and fuel shortages have led to a significant decrease in water production, which is now only five percent of the necessary amount. This has resulted in a rise of infant deaths due to dehydration, making it a concerning issue in the enclave.
He stated that the repercussions of the violence will be felt for many years to come, particularly by children, who will suffer from lasting trauma.
Unfortunately, I am unable to prioritize my children’s emotional well-being as I am solely focused on ensuring their survival.
Mr. Elder shared the case of a four-year-old daughter of a UNICEF employee in Gaza who has begun to harm herself due to the constant stress and fear. The mother of the child expressed to her colleagues, “I cannot afford to focus on my children’s mental well-being – my priority is keeping them alive.”
Humanitarian ceasefire essential
Mr. Elder reiterated calls, “on behalf of the 1.1 million children in Gaza living through this nightmare”, for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and opening of all access points for sustained entry of humanitarian aid.
He stated that if there was a 72-hour ceasefire, it would result in a thousand children being safe during that period.
Aid ‘a fraction of what is needed’
According to OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke, a sum of 26 trucks loaded with aid provisions crossed into Gaza via the Rafah border with Egypt on Monday. It is anticipated that a larger number of trucks will make their way in on Tuesday.
The total number of trucks permitted through the crossing between October 21st and 30th has increased to 143.
According to OCHA, the recent rise in aid being sent to Gaza is a positive development. However, the current amount is only a small portion of what is necessary to improve the dire humanitarian conditions and prevent potential civil unrest. Prior to the recent conflict, around 500 trucks (a mix of commercial and humanitarian) would enter Gaza each day, including about 50 trucks carrying fuel.
On Monday, Mr. Griffiths addressed the UN Security Council and emphasized the pressing need to restock fuel resources. These resources are crucial for providing energy to essential facilities such as hospitals and water treatment plants, as well as for delivering humanitarian aid within Gaza.
Attacks on healthcare
The crisis in public health in the enclave is being made worse by violence directed at healthcare facilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 82 documented attacks in Gaza thus far.
OCHA issued a warning that on Monday, the areas surrounding two hospitals in Gaza city and northern Gaza were allegedly targeted by bombings for the second day in a row. This led Mr. Griffiths to express his concern to the Security Council about reports of military facilities near hospitals and the Israeli authorities’ request for the evacuation of hospitals, including Al Quds and Shifa.
Ensure continuous protection of medical facilities.
Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), restated on Tuesday that hospitals are considered protected structures according to international humanitarian law, in response to a question regarding these accusations.
She stated that if it is proven, the act of using human shields in hospitals would be considered a war crime. She also emphasized that regardless of one side’s actions, such as using hospitals for military purposes, the other side must still adhere to international humanitarian rules for conducting hostilities. These rules provide special protection for medical units at all times.
Medical units that use their protection for non-humanitarian purposes and engage in harmful actions against the enemy will lose their special status. If a warning to stop these actions is ignored, any attack must still adhere to the principles of taking precautions and being proportionate, according to Ms. Throssell.