The escalation of conflict in Gaza will have long-term impacts on children’s physical and mental health and well-being

12 May 2024 by World Vision
The escalation of conflict in Gaza will have long-term impacts on children’s physical and mental health and well-being

World Vision is deeply concerned about the reports of intensifying military operations in Rafah, which is likely to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe.

World Vision’s Regional Leader for the Middle East, Eleanor Monbiot, says children will undoubtedly be disproportionately affected.

“Now, countless children stand on the brink. They face the peril of death, injury, and the harrowing prospect of yet another forced displacement.

“This crisis has already cost the lives of thousands of innocent children across the region. It is critical that an agreement is reached to put an end to the violence and allow consistent humanitarian access,” she says.

More than 600,000 children and their families have already been displaced from cities and towns around Gaza and are sheltering in Rafah, on top of the town’s normal population of 250,000 residents.

Now, they have ever-dwindling areas to escape the spreading conflict as the humanitarian situation across Gaza continues to rapidly degrade with a looming famine and widespread destruction of critical infrastructure across the rest of the Gaza Strip.

Without consistent humanitarian access and a safe place to go, the intensification of conflict will lead to a major loss of lives and be catastrophic for the region’s children.

They cannot stay put as civilians’ safety, particularly children’s, cannot be guaranteed. Around 44% of all Gazans who have died since October 7 are children. This is more than the number of children killed in all other conflicts around the world in the past four years.

Should individuals opt to journey back to the northern regions, additional hazards loom large, with the World Food Programme sounding the alarm on a dire ‘full-blown famine’ in those areas.

Beyond the threat of death, the long-term impacts and future threats these children face are dire.
  • At least 59 children are dying daily northern Gaza due to starvation and related issues.
  • One-third of children under two in northern Gaza are at heightened risk of brain atrophy and other mental and physical effects of severe hunger and malnutrition.
  • Half a million girls in Gaza are at risk of sexual and gender-based violence and child marriage.
  • More than 6,000 unaccompanied girls are at risk of sexual exploitation in Gaza.
  • A quarter of a million children in Gaza are at risk of suffering from mental health issues as a direct result of a loss of normalcy, witnessing conflict firsthand, experiencing violence, going without food, surviving malnutrition, being forcibly displaced from their homes, and being kept out of school.
  • All 600,000 displaced children in the Gaza Strip, but particularly the 17,000+ unaccompanied or separated children, are at an exponentially higher risk of experiencing mental health issues, sexual exploitation, trafficking, starvation, and physical violence.
  • More than a quarter of a million children are more likely to experience PTSD and depression.

World Vision calls on all parties to reach an immediate and lasting peace, including in Rafah, to save lives, ensure the release of all hostages, protect all children from the violence of conflict and forced displacement, and ensure the immediate scale-up of humanitarian assistance so unfettered humanitarian access, including essential aid and supplies can reach the civilian population.