For many weeks aid agencies, including War Child, have been warning that the bombing of Gaza and the restriction of humanitarian aid flows would lead to mass starvation. Over recent weeks, credible evidence has emerged that this is now happening.
Over half a million children, who have no part in this conflict, are at grave risk of starving to death. An estimated 335,000 of the youngest children – those under school age – are at severe risk of malnutrition. On the political level, the rights or wrongs of the conflict remain a matter of fierce debate. I hope, however, that there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the preventable death by starvation of children should not be allowed to happen.
No home, no food, no family.
Starvation is of course not the only fate children in Gaza are faced with. Over 900,000 have been forced from their homes under threat of violence. Many are left to fend for themselves: the chilling new acronym, WCNSF – ‘wounded child, no surviving family’ – has become common terminology among aid workers.
Half of all children under 5 have diarrhoea, due to the lack of clean water and sanitation within the overcrowded tents and shelters they now live in. Over 1,000 children – 10 a day – have lost at least one leg, with many having been amputated without anaesthetic. Yet the healthcare available to them is on its knees – only a quarter of Gaza’s hospitals remain operational, and these are on the brink of collapse.
These horrific statistics are growing so huge, many of us are struggling to compute the sheer scale of the tragedy. Perhaps worst of all, around 10,000 children have been killed by Israeli airstrikes over the last 100 days. That’s a primary school full of children killed every three days. With hundreds still trapped under rubble as bombs continue to fall, the total could be even worse.
How can we help?
Many of you have donated to support the work of War Child staff and partners helping the children of Gaza. This has made and will make a difference to thousands of children. But as long as this bombardment continues, there is only so much we can do with over a million children in urgent need. We need your support in encouraging the UK government – a major influence on the conflict as a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a long-term ally of Israel – to play its part.
We can contact both government and opposition MPs by email, on social media or by meeting our local MPs in constituency surgery meetings. We can contact our Foreign Secretary, and Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson. A more cynical person than myself might suggest that, with a general election later this year, our MPs might be even more motivated to listen to us than normal.
We can remind them that numerous independent observers and UN officials - including the Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights - have repeatedly reported multiple breaches of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by both Palestinian armed groups AND the Israeli government. It is illegal to force children from their homes and collectively punish them with starvation and poor sanitation. We can call on our MPs to ensure the UK pledges to hold ALL those who have committed violations of IHL accountable. We can also call on them to immediately suspend the sale of arms to anyone who has violated IHL.
As War Child has urged since the current escalation in violence began, they must also call for all hostages and detainees to be released, and for all children – including in the worst-affected areas of Northern Gaza – have safe access to the aid they need. Most urgently, they must call for a #ceasefireNOW, which would be the most effective way of protecting children from multiple threats their lives currently face.
With your help, we can protect children in Gaza.