As the war continues and the death toll mounts, more and more children are tragically losing their parents and loved ones, if not their own lives. We are shocked by the suffering that children and families have experienced in Israel and are now experiencing in Gaza. There is no justification for the killing, assault and violence against civilians.
We appeal to the humanity of all parties to prevent further loss of life and destruction. SOS Children’s Villages supports children, young people and families on all sides of this conflict. We are working hard to protect the children and young people in our care in the Gaza Strip, The West Bank and Israel.
We are also grieving the loss of young people connected to our programmes, who have been killed in the ongoing violence.
22-year-old Palestinian, Mohammad who participated in the SOS Children’s Villages’ employability programme YouthCan! for the past three years, was killed in the middle of the night when a missile struck his home as the family slept. His brother and two sisters died as well, while their mother is in a critical condition.
Mohammad was planning on starting his own business in digital marketing and was a content creator on social media. “Mohammad wanted to improve the situation of his family. He graduated and dreamt of having a job to support them,” says Tamara, the family empowerment social worker from Rafah.
A child from a family in Gaza supported through our family empowerment programme was also killed, and two more children are in intensive care.
Sigal, a graduate of the SOS Children’s Village Neradim in Arad, Israel, was killed while enjoying a music festival in Reim. Sigal, 26, an older sister to two girls and a boy, grew up in the village from the age of six to the age of eighteen.
When she and her siblings lost their mother, Sigal stepped into her mother’s shoes. Shlomi, the education coordinator in the village says: “She acted like a mother even though she herself was a child. She always took care of her siblings. Despite the difficulties, she never gave up.”
Sigal’s younger sister still lives in the children’s village and feels like she has lost her mother once again. She is surrounded by her siblings and friends. The staff there are providing her with professional support and love.
The brother of two young people living in the youth apartments in Israel was killed when one of the settlements in the south was attacked. SOS Children’s Villages’ staff are making sure that the siblings receive mental health support and do not lack anything as they grieve their loss.
In Israel, amid all the loss, children who live in the south of Israel returned to the village this week after visiting family members during a holiday break. Some of them have experienced the trauma of armed militants killing civilians in their homes, and of intense missile attacks. Professionals are working with them to help them process the fear brought on by these traumatic events.
Humanitarian crisis in Gaza
As the bombardment continues and citizens of Gaza are denied access to water, food, shelter and medicines, we are deeply concerned for the health, safety and trauma of all civilians there. The physical and mental trauma will be even greater for those children who find themselves alone, separated from their families. Almost half of the population of the densely populated Gaza Strip are children, which includes 75 children without parental care living in the SOS Children’s Village in Rafa.
Our colleague from Gaza, an SOS Children’s Villages social worker, talked about her current situation. It was very difficult to reach her though phone, due to the shortage in electricity.
“I live in Rafah, I can’t sleep from the sound of missiles at night. The bombings are not near us, but still, we hear them here…Every night I wake up at night terrified, look at my children, and when I see they are still here I feel relieved. And then I go back to sleep.”
She continues: “If I die, I wish that all of us die so that no one feels the pain of losing a loved one. I feel that I will need an intensive psychological support when all this end … if it ends …. If we stay alive.”
While another colleague said:
"At the SOS Children's Village in Rafah, we hear the sound of bombardments throughout the day. The children are nervous, fearing the loss of their relatives and friends in the community. They are under a lot of pressure. Despite the children not being able to leave the village, we make every effort to keep them engaged with various activities and games.”
SOS Children’s Villages’ response to the crisis
To support children and families affected by the escalating conflict, SOS Children’s Villages Israel and SOS Children’s Villages Palestine are working together to give emergency aid and direct support to those affected. With an aim of reaching over 22,600 people they will provide:
- Emergency care services for unaccompanied or separated children, including identification, registration, and placement in safe and nurturing environments, in accordance with international standards and local regulations.
- Direct humanitarian support, as well as protection to the most affected families and children
- Mental health and psychosocial support to children and young people to help them cope with the trauma and emotional distress.
- Temporary classes and access to remote schooling for vulnerable school-aged children affected by the war until schools are restored.
- Financial support to enable self-reliance for the most vulnerable families, including female-headed households and young people.
We are also calling on governments to put pressure on the conflict parties to uphold international law, protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to reach where it is needed.
Feature photo ©Mohamed Zaanoun/Middle East Images via AFP
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