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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 2:29 pm ar 8 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 2:29, 8 Chwefror 2024

I am very grateful to Apsana Begum for leading this important debate. I am also grateful for the sincere and passionate contributions of other right hon. and hon. Members. I am here on behalf of the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell. I will try to cover the points that have been raised.

Four months have now passed since Israel suffered the worst terror attack in its history at the hands of Hamas, who still hold more than 130 hostages. Meanwhile, as has movingly been laid out this afternoon, Palestinian civilians are facing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis inside Gaza. Children in particular are bearing the worst consequences of the conflict, as we have heard. We want to see an end to the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible. An immediate pause is now necessary to get aid in and hostages out, and the UK is engaged in sustained efforts to achieve that and to build towards a lasting solution.

I will start by reflecting briefly on how the current situation in Gaza is affecting children, as has been laid out by many colleagues this afternoon. The number of people killed in Gaza has reportedly surpassed 27,000, and more than 67,000 have been injured, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza. As we have heard, the vast majority are women and children. Many people, including children, are still missing, presumed dead and buried under the rubble.

Of the 1.7 million people who have been displaced, more than half are children. Tens of thousands of those children have been orphaned or separated from their family. Hunger and disease are spreading rapidly, which has been made worse by overcrowded shelters. There are reportedly more than 223,000 cases of acute respiratory infection, to which children are particularly vulnerable, and over 158,000 cases of diarrhoea, more than 50% of which are in children under the age of five, as colleagues have referred to. Many of these children are likely to be malnourished, making the effects of disease more severe. UNICEF reports that all children under five in Gaza—about 335,000 children—are at high risk of severe malnutrition. For children, especially those under two years old, a lack of food and vital nutrients during the developmental stage of life can lead to grave lifelong setbacks.

The healthcare system in Gaza has virtually collapsed. Only 13 of 36 hospitals are even partially functional, and even those are without enough specialised medical staff to manage the scale of the crisis. Jeremy Corbyn referred to the grave constraints that doctors face. Hospitals simply do not have sufficient medicines or medical supplies.

I turn to the UK’s response. We are focused on practical solutions to get more aid into Gaza. I am happy to confirm to the right hon. Member that we have trebled our aid this year for the Occupied Palestinian Territories to £87 million, of which £60 million is for Gaza specifically. We continue to call for an immediate pause to get aid in and hostages out.