The world is failing Gaza’s children, NGOs say

Relatives of four Palestinian children from Baker family, whom medics said were killed by a shell fired by Israeli naval gunboat, mourn during their funeral in Gaza City

Six months after US$3.5 billion was pledged to help children and their families in Gaza, reconstruction and recovery has barely started and the future of hundreds of thousands of children is at risk, says leading international Christian aid agency World Vision today.
“Governments have failed to deliver on the promises and money pledges they made at the conference in Cairo,” says Naila Abu Samra, World Vision spokesperson in Jerusalem.
“There isn’t time to waste. Tens of thousands of children remain homeless, and are showing devastating signs of trauma. Almost all of the children – 96 per cent – in our programmes are exhibiting signs of trauma, such as constant nightmares, jumpiness and withdrawal and need direct psychosocial support. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of them is suffering severe psychosocial issues. It is heartbreaking to watch this happen, and feel powerless to do anything in the face of these broken promises,” adds Abu Samra.
According to information compiled by the World Bank , only a fraction of the money pledged at the donor conference in Cairo has been released so far. Some temporary shelters have been provided to families who lost their homes in the conflict in July and August 2014, but not one new permanent residence has been built. Promises of political change have also gone nowhere, with the seven-year land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza continuing to make daily life a struggle for children.
Reconstruction of thousands of homes and businesses destroyed in last summer’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has barely begun and living conditions in the territory have only worsened six months after donor countries pledged $3.5 billion, a coalition of international aid groups said Monday.

The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) urged the international community to adopt a new approach to Gaza, including by pressuring Israel to lift its border blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The blockade, which is also enforced by Egypt, has been in place since the Islamist militant group seized Gaza in 2007.

The report signed by 46 aid groups said only open borders and a durable Israel-Hamas cease-fire can bring economic, social and political stability to Gaza. Otherwise, “a return to conflict — and the cycles of damage and donor-funded reconstruction that accompany it — is inevitable,” the report said.

“Seven years of blockade, including three increasingly devastating wars, have wreaked havoc on children in Gaza, with more than 400,000 of them still in need of psychosocial care. What kind of future are we offering them?”
“We urgently need to see help for children, sustainable reconstruction, and support to tackle the root causes of the conflict, and secure a long-lasting security for both Israelis and Palestinians,” says Abu Samra.
“Any political solution that does not include the lifting of the Gaza blockade and ensuring unrestricted humanitarian access will be futile,” Abu Samra adds.
Mohammad El Halabi, the head of World Vision’s programmes in Gaza, says: “More than 500 children were killed less than a year ago, and we are seriously concerned for the future of the injured, disabled, homeless, and traumatised children who are still living. What kind of a future do they have in this big prison? What life awaits them as they grow up?”
Since the beginning of the cease-fire in August 2014, World Vision has provided emergency relief to approximately 90,000 people, assisted more than 10,000 children with psychosocial support through 40 Child Friendly Spaces, in addition to reaching more than 13,000 households with psychological first aid interventions.
“But the overall situation is dire and if an immediate and holistic solution is not found, we risk the chance of destroying the future of an entire generation of young people in Gaza,” warns Abu Samra.