10 May 2024 - occupied Palestinian territory

STAFF ACCOUNT: I’ve seen Gaza’s horrors – now is not the time for the world to look away

A destroyed university in Khan Younis, Gaza

A destroyed university in Khan Younis,Gaza. Sacha Myers/Save the Children International

“Will I ever walk again?” The question caught me off-guard, and I glanced at our nurse Becky for her reaction, desperately hoping her answer would be “yes”.

The question came from 13-year-old Solave*, who was hit with a large piece of shrapnel when an airstrike destroyed her auntie’s house in the Gaza Strip.

Solave’s mother found her. They attempted to carry her down the stairs, but the stairs had been blown away.

When they eventually made it to the hospital, the doctors tried to treat Solave’s horrific injuries with the limited medical supplies they had, but they couldn’t save both her legs. She lost her right leg. She also lost two of her brothers that day, and any essence of childhood that was left in her life.

I heard many stories like Solave’s when I was in the Gaza Strip. A horrifying number of children have been killed and maimed in Gaza since the war started seven months ago.

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Whole families have been wiped out. I lost count of the number of people who came up to me to tell me they had lost not only their children and partner, but their entire extended family of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins. How do you cope with that kind of loss?

I feel physically sick to know more families are being wiped out, more children are being killed right now as the assault on Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip intensifies. 

More than half a million children are currently sheltering in Rafah. Families I spoke to last week told me they were terrified, that they lie awake at night listening to the bombs and drones and wondering how they will protect their children. And how they will find the energy to flee yet again.

“Where do we go? Where will be safe?”, they asked me over and over.

I didn’t have an answer for them because right now, nowhere is safe in Gaza. There is nothing safe about the Israeli-designated “humanitarian zone” in Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis – children have been killed in both of these areas in the past after they were forced to relocate there. I’ve also been to these areas of Gaza, and I can assure you they are not safe, and they cannot sustain human life.

Al-Mawasi is a sea of tents and people sheltering under pieces of plastic and blankets. People wait for hours just to use the toilet. Clean drinking water is in short supply and children go to bed hungry at night. How can an already over-crowded and squalid area support more people from Rafah who are being forcibly displaced yet again by Israeli relocation orders? 

For Khan Younis, the city is unrecognisable. Whole apartment blocks are reduced to piles of rubble, with children’s clothes and toys – and bodies – crushed between huge slaps of concrete. There is destruction as far as the eye can see. It’s not a safe place for children to live.

Children walk down the destroyed streets of Khan Younis, the Gaza Strip

Children walk down the destroyed streets of Khan Younis, the Gaza Strip. Sacha Myers / Save the Children

Despite the danger and the incredibly difficult operating environment, Save the Children is still supporting children and families in Al Mawasi and Khan Younis and in other areas across the Gaza Strip. We remain committed to operating despite this latest escalation in the war; we cannot abandon Gaza’s children.

Leaving Gaza was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. As I hugged my colleagues from Gaza, I struggled to hold back tears as the fear of what might happen to them overwhelmed me.

One of my colleagues gave me a necklace and bracelet as a parting gift – even though she has so little. It was a reminder of the amazing spirit of the people in Gaza, their generosity and determination to care for each other despite the horrendous circumstances. 

Now I’m in Cairo, away from the bombs and constant sound of drones, I think about Solave and the other children I met every second of every day.

I wonder if Solave will ever achieve her dream of becoming a businesswoman and travel the world. I wonder if she’ll ever be able to climb the stairs to her classroom again. I wonder if she’ll survive this war.  With so many children falling through the cracks – the scale of death and displacement beyond anything authorities and aid agencies can keep pace with – I wonder if I'll ever know.

The killing and maiming of children can and must end, and there is a solution: an immediate, definitive ceasefire. Political will is the only barrier.

As well as demanding an immediate and definitive ceasefire, all States must immediately halt the transfer of weapons, parts, and ammunition to Israel and Palestinian armed groups while there is a risk they are used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.

I’ve seen the pieces of shrapnel in Gaza that tear through children’s bodies. The international community must not be part of committing these unspeakable atrocities against children. We must be part of saving their lives. 

You can support our response in Gaza by donating today to our Children's Emergency Fund.


Sacha has worked as a media manager and content creator for the past 18 years, including 14 years in the humanitarian and development sector. She’s deployed to 20 countries with Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières and World Vision, responding to natural disasters, disease outbreaks, conflicts and refugee crises.

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