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GAZA: Over 2% of Gaza’s child population killed or injured in six months of war

Nearly 26,000 children – or just over two percent of Gaza’s child population – have been killed or injured in Gaza in six months of a war which has decimated the health system and severed access to education, Save the Children said.

In the six months since the 7 October attacks in which 33 children were killed, more than 13,800 children have been killed in Gaza and 113 in the West Bank, and over 12,009 children have been injured in Gaza and at least 725 children in the West Bank, according to OCHA and the Ministry of Health in Gaza. UNICEF reported at least 1,000 children have had one or both legs amputated, and about 30 out of 36 hospitals have been bombed, leaving only 10 partially functioning.

Israeli forces have also hit ambulances, medical aid convoys and access roads, decimating Gaza’s health system and undermining access to healthcare at the time when the 1.1 million children in Gaza need it most.

A two-week siege and attack on Gaza’s biggest medical facility, Al-Shifa Hospital, has left most of the complex in ruins, severing one of precious few remaining lifelines for children in need of medical treatment. According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, after the withdrawal of Israeli forces dozens of bodies have been found inside and outside the hospital. Hospitals should never be used as battlegrounds.

Education in Gaza is also under attack. There are 625,000 registered students in Gaza but no child has had formal education since October as relentless bombardment and hostilities have left nearly 90% of all school buildings damaged or destroyed. About 261 teachers have been killed and 1.4 million people are now using schools as shelters.

The destruction of schools, a grave violation against children in conflict, will have a lasting impact on a generation whose learning will remain in jeopardy even after hostilities cease.

Save the Children has warned that the emotional distress caused by bombs, loss and starvation is leaving children increasingly unable to cope. Mental health and child protection experts are warning that, as protective factors including homes, schools, and family life are ripped away, children are likely to suffer lasting psychosocial impact.

Some parents have told Save the Children that their children now have curtailed their dreams, and some struggle to see a future for themselves, focused solely instead on survival.

Ahmed-, a 37-year-old father of one, was displaced from Gaza city to Rafah. He said:

“We fled towards the south on 25 March. On our way to Rafah, we saw small, decomposed bodies near the Beidar area. Our children are seeing things no child should ever see.

A 14-year-old child in our building was going out with his father to get food and he fell and injured his right hand. He needed stitches to stop the bleeding, but his father was too scared to go to Al Shifa hospital, due to the bombing and lack of medical staff. His father and I helped dress the child’s wound, but we couldn’t sterilize it properly.”

The war in Gaza stands among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history and has led to a litany of grave violations against children being recorded:

  • Children in Gaza have been killed and maimed by Israeli forces at an unprecedented rate. More than 13,800 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza, and 33 Israeli children were killed by armed groups in the 7 October attacks. At least 725 children have been injured since 7 October in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and 114 have been killed.
  • The destruction of schools and hospitals in Gaza has become the norm, with most children unable to get even the most basic treatment or pain management due to the obliterated health system.
  • Israeli children were abducted and held hostage in Gaza reportedly subjected to violence with lasting impact on their mental health and wellbeing and at least 460 Palestinian children have been arbitrarily detained since 7 October, with some telling Save the Children’s partners of starvation, abuse and inhumane treatment in detention.

The life-saving supplies upon which families across Gaza rely have either been drip-fed or systematically denied by Israel, with recent data finding that half of the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity, and children and families in northern Gaza are at imminent risk of famine.

Xavier Joubert, Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, said:

“Over 180 days of violence have rendered Gaza unrecognizable and killed or injured over 2% of Gaza’s child population. Those who have survived so far have dwindling chances of continuing to do so. This war is not only destroying Gaza, but also the fundamental tenets of childhood. Relentless bombs and hostilities are causing potential ‘domicide’ of homes and infrastructure, with a reported 70% of homes damaged or destroyed. We’ve seen it in other conflicts, but this may be the highest share of homes destroyed in such a short time. The world must act now to ensure an immediate and definitive ceasefire and unfettered humanitarian access to end the horrifying destruction of life in Gaza. As with all children, we owe children in Gaza a dignified future – but at this rate, they are at risk of having no future at all.

Save the Children has been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children impacted by the ongoing conflict 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.    

 

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