|[ 06/08/2014 - 02:39 PM ]|
GENEVA, (PIC)-- Pernille Ironside, head of the field office run by the UN children's agency in Gaza, confirmed that more than 400 children have been killed in Israel's aggression on Gaza, and almost 400,000 others are traumatized and face an "extraordinarily bleak" future.
Ironside pointed out that rebuilding children's lives would be part of a much larger effort to reconstruct the Palestinian enclave once the fighting has stopped for good.
"How do we expect parents and caregivers to care for their children and to raise them in a positive and nurturing way when they themselves are barely functioning as humans? People have lost entire strands of their family in one blow.
"How can a society cope with this? This is a deep, deep, deep wound," she said by phone, addressing a UN news conference in Geneva.
By Aug. 4, 408 Palestinian children were reported to have been killed, 31 percent of all civilian casualties. More than 70 percent of the 251 boys and 157 girls killed were 12 or younger.
"If you're over the age of seven, you've already lived through two previous wars," and the latest escalation was far worse than those in 2008-9 and 2012, Ironside said.
UNICEF estimates about 373,000 children have had some kind of direct traumatic experience and require immediate psycho-social support, she said.
Humanitarian workers were at their limit, she said, citing Israel's destruction of electric power supplies that had exacerbated an already parlous water supply situation by putting water pumping facilities out of action.
"There's only very limited amount of water available. It's used for drinking, which means there's insufficient water for hygiene. We see children coming out of these shelters with scabies, lice, and all kinds of communicable diseases.
"Even worse is that in the communities outside of the shelters, most people have not had any access to water through the system for several weeks now. They are in a terrible state in terms of being able to access any kind of clean drinking water that's not contaminated by sewage."
That could lead to diarrhea and the further deaths of children, particularly under-fives, she said.
Ironside estimated that just sheltering families whose homes had been destroyed would cost $40-50 million in the next year, which would be a small fraction of the total reconstruction cost.