New York, 31 October 2023 (TDI): The Israel-Palestine crisis has taken a devastating toll on children, with Gaza described as a “graveyard” for them due to thousands losing their lives under Israeli bombardment.

This ongoing conflict has not only claimed the lives of thousands of children but has also left more than a million facing severe shortages of essential resources, setting the stage for a lifetime of trauma, as per UN humanitarian reports issued on Tuesday.

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths, who recently visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, spoke with Gaza families over the phone from east Jerusalem and expressed that their suffering since Israel’s response to Hamas’ attacks on October 7th has been overwhelmingly distressing.

Griffiths met with the relatives of the more than 230 hostages that Hamas has been holding in Gaza since October 7th. About 30 of these hostages are children.

According to Griffiths, these families have been going through unbearable suffering because they don’t know what will become of their loved ones.

According to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, more than 3,450 children have lost their lives in Gaza, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that around 1,000 children are missing and possibly trapped or deceased beneath the rubble.

Awaiting rescue or recovery, as per the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The situation in Gaza goes beyond the immediate threat of bombs and mortars, with infant deaths from dehydration on the rise due to a severe shortage of water production.

Gaza’s water supply is only at 5% of the required volume because of damaged or fuel-deprived desalination plants. The repercussions of this ongoing conflict on children’s mental health will persist for decades, with many survivors facing traumatic experiences.

UNICEF’s spokesperson, James Elder, shared the example of a UNICEF staff member’s four-year-old daughter in Gaza who has started self-harming due to the daily stress and fear.

Also read: Gaza humanitarian crisis severely impacts women

Emphasizing that parents in these circumstances are primarily focused on keeping their children alive rather than addressing their mental health.

Elder called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire on behalf of the 1.1 million children suffering in Gaza, along with the opening of access points for consistent humanitarian aid.

He emphasized that a 72-hour ceasefire would provide a brief respite, saving the lives of a thousand children.

While some humanitarian supplies have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the amount remains insufficient to prevent further deterioration of the dire humanitarian situation, including potential civil unrest.

In a briefing to the UN Security Council, Griffiths stressed the urgency of replenishing fuel supplies, vital for powering essential services such as hospitals and water desalination plants, as well as transporting humanitarian relief within Gaza.

Additionally, the attacks on healthcare facilities have exacerbated the public health crisis in Gaza, with 82 documented attacks so far, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

OCHA raised concerns about two hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza being bombarded on consecutive days, prompting Griffiths to express concern over the alleged proximity of military installations to hospitals and the Israeli authorities’ request for hospital evacuations.

In response to these allegations, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) emphasized that hospitals are protected under international humanitarian law, and if they are used as human shields, it would constitute a war crime.

Regardless of the actions of one side, all parties must comply with international humanitarian rules that extend special protection to medical units at all times, even when used for military purposes outside their humanitarian function.

Any attack must also adhere to the principles of precautions in attack and proportionality. This multifaceted crisis continues to unfold, with the lives of countless children hanging in the balance.