War is indiscriminate. It chooses its victims with little concern for personal involvement or political position. It doesn’t care if you’re old, infirm, or too young to even understand why bombs are flying over your head and destroying your neighborhoods. And as the escalation of tensions between Hamas and Israel ratchet up, ripping apart homes, offices and lives on both sides of the conflict, one can’t help but be concerned about the damage this very “adult” action is inflicting upon the children caught in the crossfire.
In fact, Save the Children is currently hovering on the edges of Gaza, waiting for safe passage into that country to bring supplies and protective services to the children suffering there. An independent organization focused on the well-being of children, their philosophy and mission statement are described as follows:
Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. Recognized for our commitment to accountability, innovation and collaboration, our work takes us into the heart of communities, where we help children and families help themselves. We work with other organizations, governments, non-profits and a variety of local partners while maintaining our own independence without political agenda or religious orientation.
When disaster strikes around the world, Save the Children is there to save lives with food, medical care and education and remains to help communities rebuild through long-term recovery programs. As quickly and as effectively as Save the Children responds to tsunamis and civil conflict, it works to resolve the ongoing struggles children face every day — poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease — and replaces them with hope for the future.
But beyond the formal narrative, this is an organization focused on responding in real time when the health and welfare of children are at risk. As reported by Huffington Post UK today:
Osama Damo, part of Save the Children’s team in Gaza, said: “It is a dangerous and terrifying time for children, who make up nearly half the population of the Gaza Strip.
“Most families have been trapped at home for four days, unable to leave to find basic supplies. With so many children already malnourished and suffering from anaemia, the impact on children’s health is potentially devastating.
“There is no clean water so children are going to have to start drinking the polluted tap water soon which is going to cause more severe health problems. When they fall ill their parents can’t take them to hospital.”
For many of the adults watching this escalating conflict, the concerns for its impact on the world stage, or the politics, diplomacy, and long-term effects involved, are all diminished in light of what is happening to the innocent children now being swept up in its wake.
Just this past weekend an Israeli airstrike accidently struck a home in a residential area in Gaza City, killing at least 11 civilians, including four young children. While Israel has suffered the death of three of its citizens, there is no question of the incommensurate death toll of its enemy. According to ABC News, “73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, have been killed in the five-day onslaught.”
In the day’s deadliest violence, the Israeli navy fired at a home where it said a top wanted militant was hiding. The missile struck the home of the Daloo family in Gaza City, reducing the structure to rubble.
Frantic rescuers, bolstered by bulldozers, pulled the limp bodies of children from the ruins of the house, including a toddler and a 5-year-old, as survivors and bystanders screamed in grief. Later, the bodies of the children were laid out in the morgue of Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital.
Among the 11 dead were four small children and five women, including an 81-year-old, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.
Collateral damage is an unavoidable casualty of any war; this is not news. But the numbers of civilians – children – killed in just the short time since this conflict tipped to its boiling point, has been devastating: 20 children have died and hundreds have been injured in Gaza in just five days. Given the intractability of the leaders on both sides of the struggle, those number are likely to increase, which is particularly concerning to an organization like Save the Children.
Alex Schein, Save the Children’s country director said: “The escalation of violence on top of an already fragile situation is extremely dangerous for children.
“They are being deeply affected by what they have experienced, and many could need specialist care and support. The fear among adults is unbelievable so you can imagine what it’s like for children.”
The ancient and seemingly irresolvable enmity between Palestine and Israel is one that rattles many compassionate and reasonable people in every corner of the globe, not just because of its potential to set the world on fire, but also for the continuing damage and terror it inflicts upon its children, the very people who will grow into the adults who will either solve or continue this conflict.
Save the Children is one group that has called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire. For the sake of the children, may many, many voices join them in that plea, loudly and without equivocation. And may the adults sending bombs through the sky towards the homes, schools, and nighttime beds of the children of their two countries, listen, take heed…and stop.