Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

A pause in this war is not enough

Unicef
Unicef

"It is so hard to live these days." These are the shocking words from a 10-year-old boy in Gaza. Mohammad's entire childhood has been shattered by the catastrophic impact of war.

Tragically, children of his age are currently living through the third conflict of their short lives.

Mohammad told us that he feels safe in his United Nations-run school, where Unicef, the children's organisation, is helping families struggling to survive.

But the entire population has experienced a deep form of trauma. Children have suffered injuries and witnessed people sliced up in front of their eyes.

Entire neighbourhoods and essential infrastructure have been obliterated.

Unicef met 10-year-old Shahed at al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Shrapnel hit this little girl as she slept at home.

Her family says they pray for the war to be over soon, so she can be taken to a hospital outside of Gaza.

Children are increasingly presenting with skin conditions – scabies, lice and all kinds of contagious diseases that need to be contained.

Outside the shelters, families in communities are living in a dire state, forced to use water contaminated with sewage.

Unicef continues to deliver humanitarian aid to displaced families.

We have our psychosocial teams on the ground doing their utmost to try to reach out to families affected by loss.

Even before the current hostilities began, 80% of school-age children in Gaza could only get four hours of education a day, because there is an insufficient number of schools and new ones cannot be built.

Unemployment among people under 29 is 59%.

The ceasefire gave us some hope for peace. But a brief humanitarian pause is not enough.

For the children of Gaza – like Mohammad and Shahed – the only hope for their future is an end to conflict and a sustainable remedy for the Palestinians in Gaza and as a whole.

  • Peter Power is executive director of Unicef Ireland. To donate to the Gaza Children's Appeal, visit www.unicef.ie

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