UN Estimates At Least 17,000 Gaza Children Separated From Parents

Displaced Palestinian families queue to fill plastic jugs from a water tank in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations estimated on Friday that at least 17,000 youngsters in the Gaza Strip had been left unsupervised or separated nearly four months into the conflict.

“Each one has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief,” said Jonathan Crickx, spokesman for UNICEF’s Palestinian territories office.

“This figure corresponds to one percent of the overall displaced population — 1.7 million people,” he said during a media event in Geneva via video link from Jerusalem.

Each and every one of us “is a child who is coming to terms with a horrible new reality” .

Crickx stated that finding the children’s identities was “extremely difficult” because they were often transported to a hospital where they were injured or in shock and “they simply can’t even say their names”.

He stated that during times of violence, extended relatives frequently cared for children who had lost their parents.

On the other hand, in Gaza, “due to the sheer lack of food, water or shelter, extended families are themselves distressed and face challenges to immediately take care of another child as they themselves are struggling to cater for their own children and family” , Crickx said the BBC.

UNICEF defines separated children as those who are not with their parents, whereas unaccompanied children are separated and do not have any other relatives.

A million children need mental help

He claimed that the war is having a negative impact on the mental health of Gaza’s children.

“They present symptoms like extremely high levels of persistent anxiety, loss of appetite, they can’t sleep, they have emotional outbursts or panic every time they hear the bombings,” he said.

Before the crisis began, UNICEF projected that over 500,000 children in the Gaza Strip required mental health and psychosocial help.

It now believes that “almost all children are in need” of such assistance—more than one million children, according to Crickx.

The Gaza conflict began with Hamas’ October 7 offensive on Israel, which killed around 1,160 people, the majority of them were civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official numbers.

Militants also took roughly 250 captives, and Israel claims 132 are still in Gaza, with at least 27 believed to have been murdered.

Following the bombing, Israel started a relentless military offensive in Gaza, killing at least 27,131 people, the majority of them were women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.

“Children have nothing to do with the violence. However, they are suffering in ways that no child should ever experience,” Crickx stated.

“No child should ever be exposed to the level of violence seen on October 7 — or to the level of violence that we have witnessed since then.”

He requested a cease-fire so that UNICEF could properly count unaccompanied or separated children, locate relatives, and provide mental health care.

Written by PH

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