Children are always the most vulnerable in every conflict and have special protections under international law. With every airstrike, rocket, and bullet fired, children’s sense of security is ripped away, with dire consequences for their long-term wellbeing.
We’ve been receiving terrifying messages from Save the Children staff members in Gaza. Many of them are parents to small children and describe the escalation as nothing like they’ve ever seen before.
Our colleague Amal*, who is in Gaza and is desperate to be reunited with her child who lives outside the strip, said: “Everything around us now is painful. Memories are being erased. Souls that were once full of dreams and laughter are now gone.”
Another colleague, Ahmed*, who has been forced to flee his home with his six children told us: “In these moments, we feel that there is no difference between life and death, and that you better stay in one room with your children and wife, so that you all die together, and no one is left grieving for the others.”
These are unimaginable circumstances. People are dying every day, with one child killed every 15 minutes in Gaza.
Living conditions have become intolerable. When the Government of Israel warned people in northern Gaza to evacuate for their own safety, hundreds of thousands of children were cut off from home – and from some of the basics they need to survive.
We’ve reached a point where clean water has virtually run out. People are reportedly forced to drink sea water, which will no doubt trigger deadly outbreaks of cholera and other diseases. There is no electricity or fuel, leaving hospitals unable to operate and thousands of lives at risk. Food and medical supplies are also running low.
Yet, delivering any kind of humanitarian aid has been a huge challenge when the situation is evolving fast, and violence continues to escalate. As I write, there are no safe passages to, and through, the border including, the Rafah crossing. Even if the Rafah crossing was functioning, the recent airstrikes have shown it is simply not safe and it has meant that humanitarian aid and personnel currently cannot get these critical supplies to children and their families most in need.
It’s clear that the only way now to truly protect children’s lives is for an immediate ceasefire. A vast humanitarian response needs to be delivered imminently, and all child hostages must be released, unconditionally.
Civilians, and infrastructure essential for their lives, such as hospitals and schools, must be spared from the violence.
The priority now must be to prevent further suffering and for children to have access to lifesaving humanitarian support.
I urge Rishi Sunak to call for an immediate ceasefire, and for safe, unrestricted humanitarian access. Save the Children as well as other aid agencies, stand ready to deliver hygiene kits, food parcels, blankets and other essential supplies.
We know from experience that children will never emerge unscathed from any conflict. Right now, children caught up in this violence need our help the most.
*Names have been changed to protect identity
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