In the Shadows of Celebration: Palestinian Children Struggle for Survival
The World Children's Day, also known as Universal Children's Day, is celebrated annually on November 20th. This day is dedicated to promoting international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare. It serves as a reminder of the importance of advocating for the rights and well-being of all children, regardless of their background or nationality.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) stands as a beacon of hope, outlining the inalienable rights of children to survival, protection, and development. This international commitment, however, appears painfully hollow as Palestinian children continue to face the devastating impact of protracted conflict. “The destruction in Gaza exposes the failings of world governments in safeguarding children and ensuring their rights,” says Dr. Dereje Wordofa, President of SOS Children’s Villages International
When discussing Palestine and the International Day of Children, it's essential to highlight the unique challenges faced by Palestinian children. The ongoing conflict in the region has significantly impacted the lives of Palestinian children, affecting their access to education, healthcare, and a safe environment. They experience violence, displacement, and economic hardships, which will have long-lasting effects on their physical and mental well-being.
Efforts to address the issues faced by Palestinian children involve both local and international organisations working towards ensuring their rights are protected. These efforts include providing access to education, healthcare, and psychological support. Additionally, advocacy for a peaceful resolution to the Israel attacks on Gaza is crucial for creating a stable environment where children can thrive.
On the International Day of the Child, various events and activities take place globally to raise awareness about the challenges children face and to promote the implementation of children's rights. It serves as an opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the work that still needs to be done to create a better future for all children, including those in Palestine. This includes advocating for peace, justice, and respect for the rights of children in regions affected by conflict and humanitarian crises.
Current Challenges Faced by Palestinian Children
In the present landscape of the Israeli occupation, the challenges faced by Palestinian children persist and evolve. The continuing hostilities expose them to a range of traumatic experiences, from the constant threat of violence to the disruption of their daily lives. The recent escalation in military operations, coupled with the complex geopolitical realities, deepens the adversity faced by these young lives. The toll on their mental and physical well-being remains profound, as they navigate the complexities of growing up amid conflict. Notably, today's evacuation of 28 premature babies from Gaza to Egypt highlights the urgent need for specialised medical care, shedding light on the critical healthcare challenges faced by the youngest and most vulnerable members of the population. “Today, 31 babies clinging to life were rescued from Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza and relocated to the south of the Strip” according to UNICEF. The urgency to address their immediate needs, including safety, healthcare, and education, becomes increasingly paramount in the face of ongoing uncertainties. Despite international efforts, the plight of Palestinian children demands sustained attention and collective action to ensure a brighter and more secure future for this vulnerable population. Since the 7th of October, 52 children have been killed by Israeli security forces in addition to one child killed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, according to an OCHA report. In Gaza, the toll of the conflict is staggering, with over 13,000 lives lost, including 5,500 children, and more than 30,000 individuals sustaining injuries, with approximately 75% of the casualties being children and women. Additionally, the heartbreaking reality includes at least 1,800 children who are missing, underscoring the profound humanitarian crisis and the urgent need for concerted efforts to address the devastating consequences of ongoing hostilities.
Conflict's Toll on Palestinian Children
The enduring Israeli occupation exacts an overwhelming toll on the lives of Palestinian children, ensnared in the relentless crossfire of hostilities. The spectrum of their adversity spans from the haunting spectre of airstrikes and military operations to the ceaseless daily struggles imposed by the pervasive occupation. In this crucible of conflict, the childhood of these children is not merely touched by adversity; it is immersed in an environment where fear, loss, and trauma become indelible facets of their formative years. The scale of displacement echoes a staggering reality, with an estimated 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip violently uprooted from their homes, and alarmingly, more than half of them are innocent children, their lives disrupted and futures uncertain. This grim statistic, as highlighted by UNICEF, underscores the urgent need for comprehensive global action to address the immediate humanitarian crisis and work steadfastly towards a future where the rights and well-being of Palestinian children are safeguarded with unwavering commitment.
The Toll of Blockades and Restrictions
The repercussions of the protracted occupation on Palestine extend far beyond the immediate theatre of direct conflict, with blockades and restrictions amplifying the already dire humanitarian crisis. The stifling limitations imposed create a harsh reality where basic necessities such as food, clean water, and healthcare become elusive commodities for Palestinian children. In this precarious environment, their very chances for survival and development are grievously compromised. The stark illustration of this struggle is vividly painted by the words of a UNRWA employee, who bears witness to the heart-wrenching scenes of children queuing for over six hours to secure a piece of bread or a bottle of water. The desperation is palpable, with people forced to sleep on the streets in places like Khan Younis, as thousands flee from the north in search of refuge. This distressing account underscores the urgent need for international intervention to alleviate the immediate suffering and address the structural issues perpetuating the crisis, offering a glimmer of hope for a future where Palestinian children can thrive without the shadow of such hardships.
The fundamental right to education, enshrined in the CRC, undergoes profound upheaval in the conflict-ridden region. The deliberate targeting and destruction of schools, coupled with stringent restrictions on movement create an educational landscape fraught with challenges. The very foundations of a stable learning environment crumble as students and teachers alike grapple with the pervasive psychological toll of living under the perpetual threat of violence. This relentless atmosphere of fear not only disrupts daily academic pursuits but also hinders the cognitive and emotional development of an entire generation of Palestinian children. To further add to the educational disruption, the Palestinian government has reported 439 Palestinians belonging to the university community killed, including 427 students, and 12 academics, as well as 11 higher education facilities completely or partially damaged within the first month since October 7th. Moreover, 88’000 students have been deprvied of higher education within the first month since the unprecedented counter attack. The denial of access to quality education becomes not just a consequence but a systemic injustice, reinforcing a cycle of disadvantage that threatens the intellectual and creative potential of these young minds. In the face of such educational devastation, urgent international intervention is imperative to rebuild the shattered educational infrastructure and provide these children with the keys to a brighter, more promising future.
Global Silence and the Urgency of Action
Despite the gravity of the situation, the global response remains inadequate, echoing a profound failure to address the dire circumstances faced by Palestinian children. The seemingly deafening international silence surrounding their plight serves as a disconcerting testament to the urgent need for robust diplomatic efforts. This silence not only perpetuates the suffering but also underscores the imperative to unravel the root causes of the occupation. The lack of a concerted, meaningful response from the international community amplifies the urgency for diplomatic initiatives that go beyond superficial gestures. The persistent impasse demands a reevaluation of global priorities, emphasising the imperative to forge comprehensive and lasting solutions. Only through committed, diplomatic endeavors can we hope to break the chains that bind these children to a cycle of hardship, insecurity, and unfulfilled potential.
Humanitarian Aid and Long-term Solutions
Immediate humanitarian aid emerges as an urgent lifeline, indispensable for assuaging the harrowing suffering of Palestinian children, attending to their acute requirements for safety, healthcare, and education. Yet, while this immediate relief is imperative, it serves as a temporary balm for wounds that persistently reopen in the absence of comprehensive, sustainable change. The enduring transformation demanded by the dire circumstances necessitates a resolute, international commitment to confront the root causes fueling the occupation. To achieve a just and sustainable resolution, a collective effort of unparalleled scope and dedication is indispensable. This entails not only addressing the visible manifestations of crisis but also delving into the deeper, systemic issues that perpetuate the cycle of suffering. Only through such concerted global initiatives can we hope to instigate lasting change and pave the way towards a future where the rights and well-being of Palestinian children are safeguarded with unwavering commitment.
Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) commemorates the Rights of the Child, however emphasises the plight of Palestinian children which serves as a sobering reminder of the work that remains. GICJ calls on the global community to reevaluate its commitment to the principles of the CRC, ensuring that no child, regardless of their geographical location, is left to suffer the devastating consequences of conflict and political strife. The death and suffering of innocent children and the Palestinian people will not end until the end of the occupation.