Gaza: Humanitarian Aid and Children — [Valerie Vaz in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 2:14 pm ar 8 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of John McNally John McNally Scottish National Party, Falkirk 2:14, 8 Chwefror 2024

The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Disease is only going to worsen over the next period. Unless there is intervention immediately, it is just going to get worse and worse. After the war is finished, we will still have to deal with the situation that is left, so the quicker we intervene, the better.

There are reports of deliberate strikes on civilian safe zones and hospitals—deeply disturbing accounts have been heard. Let us be clear: aid efforts, while crucial, are no substitute for a ceasefire. There is absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever. The lack of safe zones and the destruction of medical facilities mean that innocent lives continue to be lost unnecessarily. As the right hon. Member for Islington North said, unless we intervene, it is just going to get worse. The ongoing suffering of children in Gaza is heartbreaking. It is unthinkable in this day and age that it is going on. More than 1,000 children have had their limbs amputated—hundreds without anaesthetics, proper medical care, running water, electricity, food or shelter. It is unimaginable. The blockade imposed by Israel only exacerbates the situation, leaving more children vulnerable to infections and untreated injuries.

Furthermore, education has come to a total standstill in Gaza, with thousands of children deprived of their right to learn. The UNRWA schools—a lifeline for many —have closed their doors, robbing children of their future and denying their basic rights to education. Keep in mind that that all impacts on the mental health of children, and the mental health toll on children is absolutely staggering. Anxiety, loss of appetite—if they can get food —and emotional distress are commonplace. Can we even begin to understand, to take any of that into our heads? Entire families have been wiped out, leaving children orphaned and traumatised through no fault of theirs. In my constituency of Falkirk, I have personally heard first hand from a woman and her mother whose whole family are in Gaza, and they related the whole thing to me in a very calm, organised manner over a two-hour period. It is hard to take in what these people are going through.

It is unconscionable that the UK Government should continue to support Israel’s actions under the guise of self-defence. The consequences are simply dire, with totally innocent children paying the ultimate price. It is downright wrong. Humanitarian aid is essential, but it must be accompanied by a ceasefire. The decision to freeze funding for UNRWA will only worsen the crisis, putting millions of lives at risk. I ask the Minister to seriously rethink and reverse that decision.

We cannot stand by idly while innocent children suffer. The international community cannot afford to remain silent in the face of such atrocities. The UK Government, among others, must heed the calls for a ceasefire, and prioritise humanitarian aid to alleviate the suffering of Gaza’s most vulnerable inhabitants. Resuming funding for UNRWA is not just a matter of humanitarian obligation, but a moral imperative. We must also recognise the psychological toll of war on children. The trauma they endure leaves scars that may never heal. Gender and age-appropriate mental health support must be provided urgently to mitigate the long-term effects of conflict on Gaza’s future generation.

In conclusion, the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza demands our immediate attention and action. We cannot stand idly by as innocent children bear the brunt of this senseless violence. Let us join hands in solidarity with the people of Gaza advocating for peace, justice and the protection of children’s rights. Our humanity compels us to, for the sake of those children who have suffered enough.