The escalating violence in the Gaza Strip not only continues to kill and injure countless children; it also has devastating long-term effects on their well-being, mental health, and education.
In and around the Gaza Strip, escalating violence once again is wreaking havoc on the lives of children, decried UNICEF, recalling the air strikes that killed several, including a four year old, and injured many, this week.
UNICEF is the United Nations Children’s Fund, which works in over 190 countries and territories to protect the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged. It supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality education and skill building, HIV prevention and treatment for mothers and babies, and the protection of children and adolescents from violence and exploitation.
Ceasefire and appeals
On Sunday, Pope Francis appealed for peace in the Holy Land. He decried “armed exchanges between Israelis and Palestinians, in which innocent people have lost their lives, including women and children,” and prayed a recent ceasefire between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip might hold. “May weapons be silenced, because arms can never obtain security and stability. Rather, they only succeed in destroying any hope for peace,” he said.
An Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement between Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group officially came into effect late on Saturday night, meant to end the worst episode of cross-border fire since a 10-day war in 2021. On Tuesday, 9 May, Israel killed three Islamic Jihad commanders in Gaza and at least 10 civilians including several children in surprise pre-dawn air strikes. The International Community has denounced the escalating violence and attacks on civilians.
All schools closed, essential services blocked
In the statement, UNICEF highlighted that education for thousands of students has been interrupted because all schools in the Gaza Strip are closed, as well as those in Israel, within 40 kilometers.
Access to essential services for children, especially the injured and other vulnerable groups, it warned, is impeded as water and sanitation systems in the Gaza Strip are running low on fuel.
Health centers are now operating only at half capacity.
Death tolls rising
In the past two years, it stated, nearly 100 children were killed and at least 750 were injured during previous rounds of hostilities.
For decades, UNICEF argued, “children across the State of Palestine and Israel have been forced to endure a seemingly endless cycle of hostilities, many with nowhere safe to turn.”
Damage to mental health
The UN Agency stressed that the exposure of children to “terrifying violence” exacts “an incalculable toll on their mental health and well-being, with young lives lost or changed forever.”
“UNICEF,” it stated, “deplores all acts of violence against children and calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and for all parties to protect children from all forms of violence and grave violations, in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law.”
The United Nations Children’s Fund concluded its statement with an appeal that all efforts be made for “a long-term political solution to the broader crisis” so the children “can grow up in peace and safety.”
By Deborah Castellano Lubov | vaticannews.va