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Over 20,000 children missing in Gaza amid chaos of war: NGO

Over 20,000 children missing in Gaza amid chaos of war: NGO
24 June 2024 22:56

ABU DHABI (ALETIHAD)

Approximately 21,000 children are currently missing in the wake of the ongoing conflict in Gaza, many of which are believed to be trapped beneath the rubble, detained, or lost from their families, Save the Children said on Monday.

According to the agency's child protection teams, recent hostilities in Rafah have further exacerbated the crisis, separating more children and adding to the strain on communities already overwhelmed by the task of caring for them.

As the situation in Gaza is continuously worsening, the NGO warned that it has become nearly impossible to collect and verify information.

However, Save the Children estimates that approximately 17,000 children are unaccompanied and separated from their families, with around 4,000 feared to be under the rubble and others potentially in mass graves or detained and transferred out of Gaza.

She security conditions severely undermine the efforts to protect these vulnerable children.

"Every day we find more unaccompanied children and every day it is harder to support them. We work through partners to identify separated and unaccompanied children and trace their families, but there are no safe facilities for them," said a Save the Children Child Protection Specialist in Gaza, highlighting the lack of safe facilities and the difficulty in reuniting children with their families due to ongoing hostilities that restrict access to communities.

The humanitarian organisation also pointed out that many children are in the care of neighbours or strangers, increasing their risk of violence, abuse, exploitation, and neglect.

The recent attacks in Rafah by Israeli forces have led to mass casualties, the NGO added, pointing to reports of people being trapped and burnt alive inside plastic tents.

Jeremy Stoner, Save the Children's Regional Director for the Middle East, emphasised the agony families face due to the uncertainty of their loved ones' whereabouts.

"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," Stoner said.

He called for an independent investigation into the deaths and disappearances, accountability for those responsible, and an urgent ceasefire to aid the missing children who have survived and prevent further family tragedies.

"Children who are missing but living are vulnerable, face grave protection risks and must be found. They must be protected and reunited with their families."

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