EU warned 'time is almost up' for children of Gaza

Six-year-old children in the Gaza strip have already experienced three wars in their short lifetime, says Mae Elise Cannon.

By Mae Elise Cannon

09 Oct 2014

This summer, the world watched in horror as Israel and Hamas once again collapsed into open warfare for the third time in seven years. This most recent war resulted in the deaths of 501 Palestinian children in Gaza, with more than 3374 children injured.

When war and violence escalate in this region, global media attention brings accusations and claims of disproportionality, human shields, rising casualties, and children running to bomb shelters. The ceasefire is accompanied by blame games and calculations of winners and losers. Little if anything changes on the ground and the stage is set for yet another conflict.

"The EU and its member states must continue to support reconstruction efforts that address the realities of the current humanitarian crisis [in Gaza]"

However, this is not a run-of-the-mill cycle of violence. What was a humanitarian crisis before this summer’s conflict has become a catastrophe. Gaza is not moving in cycles – it is on a downward trajectory toward total collapse. And time is almost up for the children in Gaza.

Before this war, the situation in Gaza was a borderline humanitarian crisis. The water and electric infrastructure were weak or damaged – 90 per cent of water was unfit for human consumption, only 25 per cent of waste water was treated or treated partially, and electricity was unpredictable and limited.

Gaza has one of the most dense populations in the world, and meeting basic fundamental needs has been a challenge as 57 per cent of households are food insecure, 80 per cent of the population are aid recipients and approximately 41 per cent of the population is unemployed.

The United Nations relief and works agency (UNRWA) released a report called Gaza 2020, which concluded, “Unless substantial changes occur in Gaza, in particular the lifting of the blockade, the current situation is expected to worsen over the coming years to 2020 and beyond.” An EU official early this year clearly stated: “If you want aid materials to be permitted to enter, they will almost inevitably come from Israeli sources.”

"80 per cent of the population are aid recipients and approximately 41 per cent of the population is unemployed"

World Vision has been working in the region since 1975, and has been in Gaza since 2001. Since the recent conflict, World Vision’s development programmes in Gaza have been suspended, and the organisation has since engaged in emergency response.

World Vision has experienced great losses over the past several months. Registered children in sponsorship programmes have been injured, lost family members, and been orphaned. Tragically, nine children in World Vision’s programmes were killed as a result of the attacks on Gaza.

World Vision’s national director in Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza Alex Snary confirms that “This agreed long-term ceasefire allows the passage of humanitarian workers and items needed to run vital services into Gaza. But a temporary ceasefire is not enough. We should work towards the peace efforts that lead to lifting the Gaza blockade completely.”

The situation is getting worse, and without a substantial change to the opportunities children and families are afforded in Gaza, we will see a quick slide into collapse. Unless the urgent physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of Gaza’s young people are addressed, little hope for their future remains.

The EU and its member states must continue to support reconstruction efforts that address the realities of the current humanitarian crisis. World Vision thanks the European Parliament for passing a resolution in this regard and encourages the other EU institutions to support such measures.

As we consider reconstruction and the years it will take to rebuild Gaza, we must confront the current reality facing children. The global community must commit to ensuring the basic needs of all people, particularly children, are met.

We call on members of the public to contact their EU representatives to show their support for the current ceasefire, to advocate for an active response to the current humanitarian crisis by the EU and other international actors, for the lifting of the Gaza blockade and for the pursuit of sincere efforts by the governments involved to reach a lasting and just peace.

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