RAMALLAH, 7 January 2024 – More than 10 children per day, on average, have lost one or both of their legs in Gaza since conflict erupted three months ago, said Save the Children.

Since 7 October, more than 1,000 children have had one or both legs amputated, according to UNICEF. Many of these operations on children were done without anaesthetic, with the healthcare system in Gaza crippled by the conflict, and major shortages of doctors and nurses, and medical supplies like anaesthesia and antibiotics, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

While 13 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals remain partially functional, they are operating on a partial and fluctuating basis, dependent on their access to fuel and basic medical supplies on any given day. The nine partially functional hospitals in the south are operating at three times their capacity, while facing critical shortages of basic supplies and fuel. In addition, only 30% of Gaza’s pre-conflict medics are still working, according to the WHO.

Save the Children’s Country Director for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee, said:

“I’ve seen doctors and nurses completely overwhelmed when children come in with blast wounds. The impact of seeing children in that much pain and not having the equipment, medicines to treat them or alleviate pain is too much for even experienced professionals. Even in a war zone, the sights and sounds of a young child mutilated by bombs cannot be reconciled let alone understood within the bounds of humanity.

“Small children caught up in explosions are particularly vulnerable to major, life changing injuries. They have weaker necks and torsos, so less force is needed to cause a brain injury. Their skulls are still not fully formed, and their undeveloped muscles offer less protection, so a blast is more likely to tear apart organs in their abdomen, even when there’s no visible damage.

“The suffering of children in this conflict is unimaginable and even more so because it is unnecessary and completely avoidable. This suffering, the killing and maiming of children is condemned as a grave violation against children, and perpetrators must be held to account.

“Unless action is taken by the international community to uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law and prevent the most serious crimes of international concern, history will and should judge us all. We must heed the lessons from the past and must prevent “atrocity crimes” from unfolding.

“Only a definitive ceasefire will end the killing and maiming of civilians and allow in desperately needed humanitarian aid – including critical medicines for wounded children – at the scale and locations required.”

Some 22,000 Palestinians have been killed and a further 57,000 injured in the three months since 7 October, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, with children being maimed and killed at a devastating rate, and entire families being killed on a daily basis.

Save the Children has been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children since 1953. Save the Children’s team in the occupied Palestinian territory has been working around the clock, prepositioning vital supplies to support people in need, and working to find ways to get assistance into Gaza.