PALESTINE - 30 January 2024

'Children constantly hear the sounds of bombs'

The SOS Children’s Village in Rafah, Gaza, accommodates unaccompanied children and young people who have lost parental care due to the war. In this interview, staff from our programmes in Palestine share what the situation is like for children, young people and families.  

How is the situation for children without parental care in Gaza now?

At the SOS Children’s Village in Rafah, children constantly hear the sounds of bombardments throughout the day. These children are nervous, fearing the loss of their relatives and friends in the community, and they are under significant pressure. Despite the fact that the children cannot leave the village, caregivers make every effort to keep them engaged in various activities.

For children and young people who have lost parental care due to the war, assessing their situation or tracing biological family members remains extremely challenging. Official documents are often lost while fleeing conflict or due to displacement to areas far from their biological families' locations. Thousands of children and young people in Gaza have gone through extremely distressing events, like displacement, child-family separation, death of a family member, violence, etc., causing severe psychological effects. We are talking about thousands of children and young people, who have lost parental care, however, official and accurate figures are unavailable because of ongoing restrictions on movement on the ground and the inability to conduct assessments.

What are the main needs at the moment and how do you support children, young people and families?

Ceasefire is a main concern and demand right now for the security and safety of people in Gaza. SOS Children’s Villages in Palestine provides immediate assistance and aid to children, families and youth including basic life needs, livelihood sources and shelters for those who lost their homes.

The ongoing situation in Gaza has a significant impact on children's and young people’s mental health. It is crucial to provide programs that offer psychosocial support and a safe and nurturing environment to cope with trauma and build resilience. On the long term, it’s important to empower children and young people in Gaza by supporting education initiatives, providing them with the tools and resources necessary for rebuilding what they lost.

Do you collaborate with any stakeholders to protect and care for children without parental care, both those that have already been in the programme and newly admitted ones?

There are currently 76 children and young people living in the SOS Children’s Village in Rafah. All children and staff within the village are safe at the moment, staff members are providing constant psychological support and engaging them in various entertaining activities.

Precautionary measures have been implemented, and SOS Children's Villages Palestine is closely coordinating with the International Regional Office and the Emergency Response team. These measures include stockpiling food and water for all children and resident caregivers, identifying internal shelters and safe rooms at the program location, and ensuring an adequate supply of fuel for the electricity generator.

SOS Children’s Villages in Palestine anticipates receiving new unaccompanied and separated children who will seek shelter in the village. We are working with various stakeholders to identify such children, some of whom may be staying in hospitals, shelters, or among internally displaced people on the streets.

Thus far, SOS Children's Villages has received a number of children who lost parental care as a result of the war and has provided them with shelter as well as psychological support.

How many people are working for SOS Children’s Villages in Gaza currently?

We have 62 staff members all of them are displaced and the majority are taking refuge at the SOS Children’s Village in Rafah.

What’s the situation like for staff and their families?

The situation is very difficult for colleagues in SOS Children’s Village in Rafah. Most of them lost contact with their families and beloved ones due to continuous internet blockade and mobile network outage. They are worried about the situation and what will happen next. Some took shelter at the village and others are staying at their relatives.

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