World Children’s Day tragedy: Genocide of children in Gaza

'Will my baby first hear my voice or bombs?', asks expectant mother Yaqeen.— Los Angeles Times/TNS

Around 5,500 children have been killed by Israeli forces since Oct 7.

WORLD Children’s Day is an annual celebration to promote children’s rights, safety, education, health and happiness.

November 20 this year, however, comes amid Israel’s war on Gaza, on top of conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Sudan, among others .

In Gaza, about half of the population of 2.3 million people are children; since the latest Israel-Hamas conflict started, at least 5,500 children have been killed by Israeli attacks, according to Palestinian officials. That is about one out of every 200 children in the Gaza Strip. Every day more than 100 children are massacred by Israel.

An additional 1,800 children are missing under the rubble, most of them presumed dead. Around 9,000 children have been injured, many with life-changing consequences.

Many of these children are living through daily emotional and physical trauma.

The United Nations continues to appeal for a ceasefire to stop the devastating situation in Gaza.

On Sunday, Unicef said that the hostilities in the Gaza Strip are “having a catastrophic impact on children and families.”

“Children are dying at an alarming rate – thousands have reportedly been killed and thousands more injured,” Unicef cautioned.

Other UN agencies have highlighted that women and newborns in Gaza also continue to disproportionately bear the burden of the escalation of hostilities in the occupied Palestinian territory, both as casualties and in reduced access to health services.

The bombardments, damaged or non-functioning health facilities, massive levels of displacement, collapsing water and electricity supplies as well as restricted access to food and medicines, are severely disrupting maternal, newborn, and child health services.

There are an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with more than 180 giving birth every day, said the World Health Organisation. Fifteen per cent of them are likely to experience pregnancy or birth-related complications and need additional medical care.

Said WHO, these women are unable to access the emergency obstetric services they need to give birth safely and care for their newborns , forcing many to give birth in shelters, in their homes, in the streets amid rubble, or in overwhelmed healthcare facilities, where sanitation is worsening, and the risk of infection and medical complications is on the rise.

This is the fear of Yaqeen Baker who is nine months pregnant and living in Gaza. Here is her heartfelt appeal to the world:

I AM 26 years old and about to give birth in Gaza. I am terrified.

Nine months ago, my husband, our three-year-old daughter and I were all filled with joy, and began planning a beautiful future for our small family in a loving home in northern Gaza. I was excited to experience motherhood again.

We took family photos, had a gender reveal party and prepared for our new daughter’s arrival by buying necessities. We eagerly anticipated her birth, imagining how we would all come together to welcome our beautiful baby.

However, after Oct 7, the situation changed completely. As Israel began bombing Gaza, we were told to evacuate our small, memory-filled home. But we’d hoped to return in a couple of days. Eight months pregnant, I stood in front of the wardrobe we’d filled for the new baby, thinking it would still be a while before I gave birth and we would return. I decided not to take any of the clothes, toys and trinkets we’d carefully chosen for our baby girl with me, assuming we could come back for our things later. I closed the wardrobe and headed to the south of Gaza.

A month later, the war hasn’t ended, and there seems to be no hope of it ending soon. I have been staying at my relatives’ house in southern Gaza. I became anxious about giving birth, about finding clothes and baby formula for my daughter. I have to deliver by caesarean section and when I read about the shortage of anaesthesia for surgeries, my mental and physical health crumbled. I’ve had high blood pressure, dizziness and a constant state of fatigue.

I tried my best to prepare essential items for my delivery. My husband went to the pharmacy for milk, diapers, medical supplies, wound dressings and painkillers. He returned with nothing; most supplies were out of stock. I was shocked. My fear, stress and confusion only increased.

I started questioning why we even bring children into this world if they will suffer in this unjust reality. What sin does an unborn child commit to deserve a life where even the basic necessities can’t be provided, let alone a safe birth?

My husband took risks to go to pharmacies in more distant places around southern Gaza and managed to get some supplies, but not everything we needed. I struggled to find baby clothes due to store closures and the risk of movement. There is a small hospital nearby in the Nuseirat refugee camp that’s still operating, but how do we reach the hospital for delivery, when our car is out of fuel and there’s no communication network to call for an ambulance?

We are barely surviving here in Gaza, and what you hear in the news is just the tip of the iceberg. Israel claims that Gaza’s southern areas, including where I am, are safe. But Israel’s airstrikes, artillery shelling and targeting of supposed “safe houses” in the southern regions do not stop. We are safe nowhere.

All I can do now is pray for safe passage and delivery, for the safety of my unborn child and for a ceasefire and end to Israel’s attacks on Gaza. I long to return to my home and find that it’s safe and intact, but I’m consumed by fear that it has all been reduced to rubble.

We Palestinians are people like any other, entitled to the most fundamental human rights, the least among them the right to live safely and readily obtain the basic necessities of life. Our utmost concerns shouldn’t be how to find clean drinking water, flour for bread or warm clothes for our children.

Why have Western governments abandoned us? We too have dreams and aspirations, curious minds and innovative ideas, and a younger generation that we want to raise to serve the greater good in the world.

I hope that my daughter comes into this world and hears my voice before the sounds of explosions, bombings and screams. I wish for her a long, happy and safe life – free from bombardment, casualties, injuries and occupation. May she experience childhood in a world of innocence, not war. — Los Angeles Times/TNS

Yaqeen Baker is a mother living in Gaza. This article was translated from Arabic by volunteers working with Adalah Justice Project.

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