Protecting Gaza’s Children

Nurul Izzah Anwar, Yolanda Augustin - Project Syndicate

KUALA LUMPUR – In just over 50 days, some 20,000 civilians in Gaza have been injured, while more than 8,000 have been killed, according to Palestinian officials. A majority of the dead – at least 5,500 – are children, which amounts to one Palestinian child killed every ten minutes, while an additional 1,800 children are missing, and presumed dead, under the rubble.

The high death toll among young people partly reflects the fact that nearly half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 18. But it can also be attributed to the targeted attacks against civilian infrastructure, including Al-Shifa HospitalIndonesian Hospital, and the United Nations-run Al-Fakhura school. As a result, at least 21 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals – including the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, the only facility providing chemotherapy for cancer patients – are no longer operational. (The aid agency Save the Children has warned that children’s mental health in Gaza is being pushed beyond the breaking point.)

The UN Security Council has identified and condemned the willful killing and maiming of children as one of “six grave violations” of its 1999 resolution on children and armed conflict. But, as UN Secretary-General António Guterresremarked in late October, there are many “clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza.” Deprived of water, food, fuel, and electricity, and facing a shortage of medical supplies, doctors and nurses have struggled to care for patients; in some cases, surgeons have been forced to operate without anesthesia.