Israel Palestine Conflict

‘Generation of lost kids’: UNRWA chief warns of bleak post-war future for Gazans

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The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, warned Wednesday of the bleak future facing Gazans after the war between Hamas and Israel ends.

Following his fourth visit to the Palestinian territory since the war erupted on October 7, the UNRWA chief said many residents are no longer able to see “the future in the Gaza Strip”.

“You have hundreds of thousands of people living now in the street, living in these plastic makeshift (tents), sleeping on the concrete,” Lazzarini told journalists in Jerusalem.

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The majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million residents have been forced from their homes, while Lazzarini said more than 60 percent of buildings are estimated to be damaged.

The most extensive Israeli bombardment has hit the north, where AFP journalists have witnessed scores of residential blocks reduced to rubble.

“The north for us is a pocket of humanitarian catastrophe,” the UNRWA chief said.

“Would you even encourage anyone to go to the north when we know the north is infested by UXOs - unexploded ordnance - and rubble, and non-functioning services?” he asked.

‘Generation of lost kids’

Fighting has ravaged Gaza since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel that resulted in the death of about 1,140 people, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 24,448 Palestinians, more than 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in Israeli bombardments and ground assaults, according to the Gaza health ministry’s latest figures.

While Israel expects the war to rage on for months, half a million children aged six to 14 are estimated to have no access to education.

“My fear is that we have now a generation of lost kids,” said Lazzarini, describing children who are living in “brutal” conditions and are deeply traumatized.

“This should concern all of us if we are talking about future peace and security and cohabitation. The more we wait... the more we take risks for the future,” he said.

Despite months of shuttle diplomacy between the belligerents and their allies, there remains no public plan outlining post-war governance or reconstruction in Gaza.

“When we talk about rebuilding Gaza, it’s not anymore like before, where we had to rehabilitate some shelter and that was still doable,” the UNRWA chief said, referring to previous rounds of fighting which lasted days or weeks.

“I don’t see any country investing significantly in the absence of a solid, proper political project and roadmap,” he said.

“And for this, you need countries to trust in this roadmap.”

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