Israel/ OPT: The Protection of Children Must Have the Utmost Priority

palestine gaza

As the war continues into its sixth day, Terre des hommes urgently calls for international attention to the dire conditions faced by children in this rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis. The armed violence is severely affecting children’s access to basic necessities and places an unimaginable strain on their physical and mental wellbeing.

With 50 years of experience on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Terre des hommes (Tdh) is profoundly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the unimaginable conditions children are enduring.

Picture a child in Gaza right now. Instead of bedtime stories, they hear explosions; instead of dreams, they have nightmares. These kids are living through a terrifying reality that no one should experience. Their basic rights to safety, health, and happiness are being eclipsed by the shadows of conflict. Protecting children must be the top priority of the international community,” asserts Khitam Abuhamad, Head of Gaza Office.

Children are disproportionally affected by the current war in Gaza; half of the population is under 18 years of age. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reports that over 1,100 lives have been lost, of which 326 are children. Additionally, 5,339 individuals have been injured, with children making up 1,217 of this number. The conflict has also forced approximately 340,000 Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking refuge in places like schools and hospitals, which unfortunately are not safe from the ongoing attacks. Health facilities are overcrowded and face severe shortages, while at least 88 education facilities have been struck. For the 6th consecutive day, over 600,000 children in Gaza have been denied their right to education. Constraints on humanitarian access and heightened risk to safety are further exacerbating the crisis.

Long-term effects on children's mental health

A recent study by Tdh revelead that the mental well-being of children and young people in Gaza had deteriorated significantly even before this crisis. After 16 years of continuous blockade, recurrent wars, and escalations, more than half of the children already faced difficulties in dealing with their emotions and managing daily activities. This recent trauma is likely to have a lasting impact on their mental health.

We strongly underscore the need to prioritise all children's safety and well-being by ensuring immediate and unobstructed access to humanitarian aid as well as to essential necessities like food, water, medical supplies, and electricity. We urge all parties involved in the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law, ensuring children are never targeted.

Seeing firsthand the impact of this war in Gaza every single day, I can tell you these children bear the weight of a battle they never asked for. Their eyes reveal stories of shattered dreams and a longing for peace. The world must listen, not just observe. For these children, we need determined action from the international community,” Khitam Abuhamad concludes.

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