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Save the Children urge for an end to violence at border which has seen 948 children hit by live ammunition and for support for those who have been wounded.
While early signs are that an agreement could bring relative calm to Gaza, months of violence leave behind almost 1,000 Palestinian children shot and maimed by live ammunition. As they struggle in a crippled health system, it is vital to support these children in recovering from their physical and mental wounds and ensure no further children are injured, Save the Children warns.
To date more than 5,100 Palestinian children have been injured since the protests began, according to the UN. In total, it says 24,362 Palestinians have been injured and 228 killed since 30th March. In the same period 40 Israelis have been injured and one soldier killed.
Even for the most seriously injured, there is little chance they can leave Gaza to get the treatment that could, in some cases, save their limbs. The WHO reports that less than a quarter of people injured in the protests have been permitted to leave Gaza for treatment.
Rami*, 13, was with a group of children at the protests when he was shot with what appeared to be an exploding bullet.
The bullet carved a hole in his leg and he was rushed to a field hospital where the doctors wanted to amputate before his father intervened.
Rami has now had surgery 11 times and doctors don’t know if he will ever walk again.
Rami said, “They started to shoot at us, and then there was (tear) gas. I ran away, I found my brother. We were about to leave to go home… they shot me. I fell, my brother started to cry and say: ‘I can’t rescue you’.”
“They bandaged both legs, and I was bleeding. They took me to hospital and the doctor said to sign for my leg to be amputated. My father argued with the doctor until the head of the department came and said that there’s a chance to save the leg.
“I want to walk, to be able to go to school, to play football and play with my friends. I always wanted to be a football player and I still want to.”
Rami’s family explained how they tried to get him medical care in Israel but their requests have been refused so far. They cannot afford the basic medication to prevent further infection. Save the Children and its partners are providing Rami with mental health support to help him deal with the traumatic experiences and are ensuring he gets the antibiotics he needs.
According to a recent report, 460 Palestinians will be in need of long-term limb reconstruction following the recent mass demonstrations, requiring up to seven surgeries and extensive treatment for up to two years. More than 80 of them may be children. The numbers are expected to increase. Since 30th March there have been 15 amputations on children.
Ibrahim Abu Sobeih, Save the Children’s Program Manager in Gaza, added:
“Many injured children are not only facing physical injuries but also psychological implications for their mental health. They need adequate support to recover from their traumatic experiences. They need to learn to walk again, to move, but also to live.”
“Already before the recent events, we were deeply concerned about the psychological impact of prolonged exposure to extreme violence and the blockade on the children of Gaza. If left untreated, the symptoms of anxiety and depression could have long term physical and psychological damage.”
Yet hospitals in Gaza are overstretched. Some 8,000 pre-scheduled surgeries, including critical cases, have been postponed. Since the start of 2018, 462 health workers have been injured and three killed in violence at the perimeter, putting a further strain on Gaza’s health system. Gaza’s central medical store is already out of 40% of essential medicines, with a further 47% at less than one month’s supply.
Maher* is 11 years old. He was at a demonstration with friends when he was shot in the arm. He kept the bullet the doctors removed.
“A helicopter dropped (tear) gas all over the place and we got separated. While I was standing there in the gas, I felt something in my arm. I got shot.
“I looked around, then I screamed and felt a lot of pain. No one came to help because they were afraid of being shot and gassed too.”
“Now I cannot play with my friends as before, I can’t hold the ball as they can do, because it hurts.”
“What did I do to the soldiers? I didn’t go there to throw stones, I went to the protest like everyone else, holding my flag. I didn’t think it would be so dangerous.”
Tom Krift, Save the Children’s Regional Director for the Middle East, said:
“The Israeli government must end the use of sniper fire and live ammunition against children in Gaza. The killing and wounding of children is never acceptable, all parties must ensure that children are not targets. We strongly urge all protests to remain peaceful.”
“The long-standing blockade has created a fuel shortage which makes it harder for hospitals to function and for injured children to get the medical care they need. It puts the lives of hundreds of children at risk.”
“There are encouraging signs that the reported agreement may help stop further child casualties. To prevent more of Gaza’s children from having their lives shattered by bullets all sides must redouble their efforts to find a peaceful solution and tackle the long-term causes of this conflict.”
“In line with international humanitarian and human rights law, we are calling for an end to the blockade. Lifting it will be essential to allow health services to re-establish health care that can save lives and prevent long term disability. It will also be a vital step towards achieving durable peace that enables reconstruction and recovery.”
Notes to editors
Save the Children partners conduct emergency field visits to injured children to provide psychosocial support and help ensure children get counselling to start to recover from their experiences.
In a survey carried out before the protests Save the Children found that a generation of children in Gaza are on the brink of a mental health crisis, and that fresh violence could destroy their last vestiges of resilience.