UN calls for mental health support for children impacted by Gaza war

By Thomson Reuters Feb 8, 2024 | 9:59 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations committee appealed on Thursday for “massive psychosocial support” for children traumatised by violence in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and Israel and said it would review Israel’s treatment of children later this year.

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, launched in the wake of a deadly rampage by Hamas militants in southern Israel on Oct. 7, has displaced most of the Palestinian enclave’s 2.3 million people, left homes and infrastructure in ruins, and caused acute shortages of food, water and medicine.

Children and women make up the bulk of the nearly 28,000 people killed during the offensive, according to the authorities in Gaza. In their Oct. 7 rampage into Israel, the militants killed about 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

“The rights of children living under the state of Israel’s effective control are being gravely violated at a level that has rarely been seen in recent history,” said Ann Skelton, chair of the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“We call for massive psychosocial support for children and families to relieve the traumatic and long-lasting impact of war, including Israeli children who were victims of, or witnesses to, the (Oct. 7) attacks and those whose family members have been taken hostage,” she told a news conference.

The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva said it would issue a statement on the U.N. committee’s comments shortly.

UNICEF said last week that nearly all children in Gaza were thought to require mental health support.

Skelton said Israel had postponed its participation in a planned dialogue on child issues and that it was now scheduled to take place in September.

“The committee deeply regrets that it did not have the opportunity to review Israel when time is of the essence,” she said.

Skelton also voiced concern for children living in the occupied West Bank, which she said faced “facing arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and violence committed by occupying forces and settlers”.

Israel’s military has said it operates against suspected militants in the West Bank.

The West Bank had already been experiencing the highest levels of unrest in decades during the months preceding the Oct. 7 assault on Israel, but confrontations have increased sharply following the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Gareth Jones)