21,000 children missing in the chaos of Gaza war: Save the Children report

(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) – Up to 21,000 children are missing, many trapped beneath rubble, detained, buried in unmarked graves or lost from their families in the chaos of Gaza war, British aid group Save the Children has said.

“It is nearly impossible to collect and verify information under the current conditions in Gaza,” the group said, “but at least 17,000 children are believed to be unaccompanied and separated and approximately 4,000 children are likely missing under the rubble, with an unknown number also in mass graves,” it said in a report on Monday.

More than 14,000 children have been killed in Israeli air strikes in Gaza since October 7, while others are suffering from severe malnutrition and do not “even have the energy to cry”, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), said in a report earlier this year.

“Since October, Gaza has faced relentless violence which has killed over 37,000 people, including thousands of children. It follows an attack in Israel by Palestinian armed groups that killed over a thousand people, including at least 33 children,” the Save the Children report said.

It also notes that about 250 Palestinian children are also missing in the occupied West Bank, as of June 9.

Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children’s regional director for the Middle East, has called for an independent investigation into the situation surrounding Gaza’s missing children, and for accountability.

“Families are tortured by the uncertainty of the whereabouts of their loved ones. No parent should have to dig through rubble or mass graves to try and find their child’s body. No child should be alone, unprotected in a war zone. No child should be detained or held hostage,” he added.

Further strain

The agency’s child protection teams are reporting that the latest displacements caused by the offensive in Rafah have separated more children and further increased the strain on families and communities caring for them.

It is almost impossible to collect and verify information under the current conditions in Gaza, but at least 17,000 Palestinian children are believed to be unaccompanied and separated.

With 40 per cent of the casualties said by the UN to be children, approximately 4,000 children are likely missing under the rubble. An unknown number are believed to be in mass graves. Others have been forcibly “disappeared”, including an unknown number detained by the Israeli occupation forces and transferred out of Gaza, their whereabouts unknown to their families amidst reports of ill-treatment and torture.

“Every day we find more unaccompanied children and every day it is harder to support them,” explained a Save the Children Child Protection Specialist.

“We work through partners to identify separated and unaccompanied children and trace their families, but there are no safe facilities for them; there is no safe place in Gaza. Besides, reuniting them with family members is difficult when ongoing hostilities restrict our access to communities, and constantly force families to move.”

Source: Gulf News

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