War Child Country Director: How Humanitarian Aid is Disintegrating in Gaza

June 5, 2024

In a recent statement with 19 NGOs, we explained how humanitarian aid is disintegrating in Gaza. But what does this mean specifically for War Child? Are we still on the ground providing support to children? Sahar Smoom, our Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, shares the latest.

How has the closure of the Rafah crossing affected War Child’s work?

“Although War Child works through local teams and local procurement, the closure of the Rafah crossing has had massive knock-on effects across our work. For example, if a child hasn’t eaten in days or is suffering from chronic pain due to an amputated leg, it’s incredibly difficult to provide mental health support in a meaningful way.

The success of our operations across the Gaza Strip have always relied on close collaboration with the UN and other humanitarian agencies. One provides medical care; another shelter, another water and sanitation and so on. That working dynamic is really being tested - because even the most basic items are virtually non-existent."

And what about the attacks on Rafah in the past week? How have they affected your ability to operate?

“The majority of our work supporting children in Gaza was taking place in Rafah. Since the operation started, we've had to put that on hold, until our staff were able to relocate and new areas - where we could continue to work - were identified.

We have shifted our implementation areas to the middle and north of Gaza including Gaza City. But with Israeli airstrikes targeting the entire Strip without respite, operating anywhere is extremely challenging.”

What support is War Child providing? Are you able to offer any form of psychological support to children?

“Currently, we are continuing to provide food, water, hygiene products and psychological first aid, with a focus on children fleeing the Israeli ground incursion in Rafah.

In the past few weeks, War Child has delivered some 550 food parcels to families in Khan Younis and the middle area of Gaza.

While we’re unable to roll out our mental health interventions, we are organizing recreational activities wherever we can. We’ve even held a TeamUp style-session on the beach. It’s far from sufficient, but it does allow children to play and escape the war for a moment."

But if there is no aid getting into Gaza, where are you getting the food from?

“Right now, the volume of aid getting into Gaza is lower than it has been at any time in the past seven months. However, large-scale international bodies like the UN’s World Food Programme are still working with local suppliers to get food, fuel, medical supplies and other items across the border. War Child coordinates with these suppliers and humanitarian agencies to ensure the aid reaches those most vulnerable.

Through this system, War Child has helped provide emergency food and aid to around 70,000 children since October. However, this is no cause to celebrate. Nothing but an immediate and unequivocal ceasefire, and the free flow of humanitarian aid, will change the outcome for the 1.1 million children in urgent need.”

And is that all War Child is campaigning for – a permanent ceasefire?

“Our main call to world leaders is to secure a permanent ceasefire and the safe passage of aid to children and civilians across Gaza. We also lobby national governments and the UN Security Council to hold to account all armed forces and groups committing rights violations against children. Israel is generating this humanitarian catastrophe and repeatedly violating international humanitarian law. Because of this, we are also calling for the immediate suspension of arms sales to Israel.

If a ceasefire is secured, we will campaign for a lasting political solution - because it is our responsibility to prevent children across the region from ever being subjected to a catastrophe like this again.”

“It is our responsibility to protect children from ever being subjected to a catastrophe like this again."
Sahar Smoom, War Child Country Director
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Food distributions in the Rafah area, before attacks intensified

Do you have any other plans for the response, if a ceasefire is secured?

“The situation feels hopeless - in the past three days, there were more horrific massacres in Deir Al Balah, Buriej, Al Maghazi and Nussierat in the central areas of Gaza.

But I see it as War Child’s duty to sustain hope - otherwise we’ve given up on Palestinian children.

As soon as a ceasefire has come into effect, we are prepared to launch the biggest emergency response in our history, providing vital aid, protection, education and sustained mental health support to over one million people across Gaza and the West Bank.”

To learn more about War Child’s global campaigning activities for the children of Gaza, browse the News section of our website.