World Vision sponsored children killed in Gaza conflict

5-year-old Saher took part in World Vision's "Children Participation and Learning Project" in Gaza and was tragically killed when an Israeli air missile hit his house(Photo: World Vision)

World Vision says the conflict in Gaza is having an "alarming" toll on children and that the more than 230 children killed by the fighting so far include several on their sponsorship programme.

"All of the children in our north Gaza programme have been driven from their homes and several killed or injured," says Alex Snary, National Director of World Vision's work inJerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.

Among the fatalities was a 5-year-old boy named Saher, who was part of World Vision's Children Participation and Learning Project in Gaza. World Vision reports he was tragically killed by an Israeli air missile while playing inside his home last month.

Another 5-year-old, Mohammed Zeyad Al-Rahel, had been on World Vision's sponsorship programme since May this year and had been receiving psychosocial support at one of its Child Friendly Spaces.

He was killed alongside his 18-year-old uncle when an Israeli tank shell hit his room in the Al-Zaitoun neighbourhood on the morning of July 19.

"Mohammed's death is tragic, especially for his family. His mom expressed her devastation noting how she was looking forward to him starting school in August. Her dream was for her son to grow up and become a doctor. Unfortunately, he didn't live to fulfil her dreams, or his," World Vision said in a report.

The fighting has caused World Vision to suspend operations in Gaza, with the exception of its psychosocial support service for children who have been injured, lost a family member or lost their homes. It is also providing the service for affected children in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"We are trying to do that in the most difficult situation, reaching out to children in the hospitals, in their homes and even in UNRWA schools where they are taking shelter with their families," said Snary.

Snary called for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted so that aid could get through to those in need.

"We cannot return to the status quo," Snary said. "The crossings to Gaza must be open, in accordance with international humanitarian law, so that aid and recovery efforts can start."

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