Children in Gaza are experiencing indescribable trauma after more than a month of near-constant airstrikes. At least 4,237 children in Gaza have been killed since October 7 – one child every ten minutes, or more than 100 children each day. A further 1,350 at least remain missing under the rubble of bombed-out buildings and are presumed dead.
The scale of the bloodshed is unprecedented. The number of children killed in a single month of crisis in Gaza is more than eight times the number of children killed during the entire first year of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Fewer children were killed in Iraq over the course of 14 years of war between 2008 and 2022.
Samar is one of the thousands of children trapped in Gaza. In a voice note message, he said:
“My name is Samar. I am 9 years old, and I want the war to end and to go back home, paint, and study at school.”
Nowhere is safe from the airstrikes, not even medical facilities – which are protected under international law. On Sunday, the Rantisi Pediatric Hospital in Gaza City was hit by an airstrike that killed at least four people and caused extensive damage to the third floor, which hosts the only pediatric cancer unit in the whole of Gaza. The hospital, which is treating around 70 children, has since been issued with a further evacuation order ahead of potential airstrikes.
Hala is a humanitarian worker in Gaza. She said:
“As a mother, I have been running from one place to another, escaping from one place to another, just to save my life and the lives of my children. We want to save our lives and the lives of our children, nothing more, nothing less.”
At least two children in Gaza are suffering injuries – some of them life-changing – every 10 minutes. Yet doctors lack the proper medical supplies to treat them. They are being forced to substitute things like household vinegar or salty water for disinfectant or carry out life-saving surgeries using nothing but the torchlight of their phones due to the lack of fuel. Tragically, the number of injured children arriving at medical facilities whose entire families have been killed is now so high, that a new acronym has been coined to describe them – WCNSF: Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.
Many of the children that have survived so far are sick or at risk of falling sick due to the lack of clean water and food. With whole families splitting just one piece of bread between them, and thirsty children forced to drink salty or contaminated water, parents report that their children are becoming severely malnourished and underweight. Cases of gastroenteritis are high, while the majority of the 33,551 cases of diarrhea reported since mid-October are among children under five, according to the World Health Organiation.
Somaya, a pregnant mother who is sheltering in a school near Deir al Balah, said:
“This water is salty sea water; we have to drink it because we can’t find water. And these little children, we cannot clean them or bathe them because we are afraid that they will get sick.”
Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine, said:
“Children in Gaza have been living through unimaginable horror, day in, day out, for more than a month now. They should be out enjoying their childhoods, playing with their friends, and learning at school. Instead, they are hungry and thirsty, forced to hide in cramped spaces in fear for their lives as bombs explode all around them. Devastatingly, some of them have lost their entire families and will have to live the rest of their lives without ever being hugged by their mother, father, or relative again. The coining of a new acronym to describe these children should deeply shame us all.
The Israeli forces must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and stop bombing hospitals and other protected sites immediately. The evacuation order at Rantisi Paediatric Hospital must be rescinded. Even if the sick children being treated there were well enough to be moved, with roads and vehicles damaged, how could they leave? And where is safe for them to go?
The world cannot continue to watch on passively while a whole generation is decimated. The horrors of the last month have already left deep scars of trauma on every single child in Gaza, who will require years of psycho-social support. The UN Secretary-General has said that Gaza is becoming a “graveyard for children” – we cannot let this death and suffering go on. There must be a permanent ceasefire, now.”
For media requests, please email Christal.James@actionaid.org or call 704 665 9743.
The following spokesperson is available:
- Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine
ActionAid is a global federation working with more than 15 million people living in more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries. We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.