Eleven-year-old Noor is among hundreds of kids who have had their legs amputated in Gaza since the start of the war in October 2023. She says, “I used to run and play. I was so happy with my life. But now when I lost my legs my life became ugly and I got sad. I hope I can get an artificial limb.”
Recently, Gaza has seen an unusually high number of child amputees. According to UN estimates, over 1,000 children have had their legs amputated in the Palestinian enclave, which is a significantly higher number than in many other conflicts.
In the case of Noor, her left leg was almost entirely torn off in an explosion. She is now afraid that she will lose her right leg as well. Noor says, “It hurts me a lot and I want to go to UAE (United Arab Emirates) because I am afraid that they will have to cut off my other leg.”
Meanwhile, Gaza’s collapsed medical system is unable to provide the care these children need. Wafa Hamdan, a nurse at European hospital says, “I try as much as I can to make things easier for them as a nurse. But no matter what you do, they have severe psychological problems. They feel incomplete, with lots of pain. With that, we have a shortage of painkillers and they need it permanently.”
The lack of hygiene, medicine and surgeons in Gazan hospitals are leading to a humanitarian crisis of gargantuan proportions. According to Chris Hook, an emergency medicine doctor, “Many limbs that have apparently been saved, will go on to require amputation. And many (people with) amputation and limbs that we think have been saved may still go on to die of the longer-term consequences of all this.”
The ongoing surge of conflict-related violence continues to take a horrendous toll on the lives of children and their families in the State of Palestine and Israel. Nothing justifies the killing, maiming or abduction of children. Any delay in bringing an end to the conflict will inevitably result in more devastating consequences for children.
According to reports, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli children have been killed and many more injured in the last 72 hours. The killing and maiming of children is a grave violation and willful killing is a serious breach of International Humanitarian Law. “We call on all parties not to target children and take all necessary measures to ensure their protection during hostilities,” said UNICEF.
“As of yesterday, according to UNRWA, there are more than 187,000 newly displaced people in Gaza, many of them sheltering at UNRWA schools, and many of them children. Some of the facilities sheltering displaced families in Gaza, including schools, have sustained damages. Hundreds of thousands of children are affected by the escalation of hostilities in Gaza and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Before this renewed violence, 1.1 million children were already in need of humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – accounting for approximately half the child population,” it said further.
“We are extremely alarmed about measures to cut electricity, food, water and fuel from entering Gaza. This will add another layer of suffering to the existing catastrophe faced by families in Gaza. Depriving children of access to food and essential services puts their lives at risk, as do attacks on civilian areas and infrastructure – including health centers, schools and water and sanitation systems. It is imperative that all parties refrain from further violence and attacks on civilian infrastructure, including schools, health centers and shelters,” said UNICEF.
“In the Gaza Strip, UNICEF and its partners are on the ground delivering immediate humanitarian support, including medical supplies, fuel, as well as mental health and psychosocial support. With the humanitarian situation rapidly deteriorating, humanitarian actors must be able to safely access children and their families with lifesaving services and supplies – wherever they may be. UNICEF is calling for immediate cessation of hostilities and reminding parties of their obligations under International Humanitarian law to afford special protection to children. Every single child, no matter who or where they are, must be protected,” it said further.