Maverick Citizen


SA children’s advocates call for Gaza ceasefire — ‘we side with the children not the guns’

SA children’s advocates call for Gaza ceasefire — ‘we side with the children not the guns’
Injured children are delivered to a hospital in Khan Younis following an Israeli bombardment in the southern Gaza Strip on 26 October 2023. More than 6,500 Palestinians and at least 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian health authority, since Hamas militants launched an attack against Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October, and the Israeli operations in Gaza and the West Bank which followed it. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

More than 3,500 children have been killed in Israel and Gaza since 7 October, the vast majority in the bombardment of the Gaza Strip. In the face of this pedicide more than 500 children’s advocates in South Africa have issued a call for peace and respect for human rights amid the escalating conflict in the Middle East.

At the weekend, Save the Children, an international NGO, reported: “The number of children reported killed in Gaza in just three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones since 2019.”

According to the NGO, “since 7 October, more than 3,257 children have been reported killed, including at least 3,195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank and 29 in Israel, according to the ministries of health in Gaza and Israel respectively”. 

That figure has since risen to 3,457.

It is estimated that a child is losing their life in the indiscriminate bombardment every 10 minutes. This is despite calls by UN agencies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, “on all actors to safeguard civilians, schools and hospitals in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. We reiterate that the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires States parties and all actors to respect and to ensure respect for the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflict with regard to children. The Convention also aims to ensure the highest level of protection for children.” 

Children’s health and rights advocates speak out

In response to this growing tragedy more than 550 child health advocates and practitioners in South Africa, who have been at the forefront of advocacy for children’s rights here, have signed a statement calling on the international community “to broker an immediate ceasefire and seek a lasting solution to the conflict that brings peace and stability to the region, and that safeguards the future of its children”. 


A relative sits with a Palestinian child injured during the Israeli bombing of the southern Gaza Strip, in the intensive care unit at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, on 27 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

The signatories to the statement include vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town Max Price, emeritus professors Marian Jacobs, Louis Reynolds and Sameer Rahim from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCT; professors Haroon Saloojee and Ashraf Coovadia from Wits; Professor Mark Tomlinson from Stellenbosch University; Professor Linda-Gail Bekker from the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre; and Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, the co-director of Caprisa.

Read the petition and full list of signatories here

According to Lori Lake of the Children’s Institute, “many people have been feeling deeply distressed and powerless to address the escalating conflict in the Middle East, so as child rights advocates and health workers we wanted to create a space where people could raise their concerns and speak into the silence”.  

“We recognise that this is an emotive and potentially divisive issue, so we have also sought to maintain a balanced view in our call for peace, humanitarian aid and respect for the rule of law.”  

The statement reads: “As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children, we acknowledge the pain and suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians in response to this unspeakable trauma and loss of life. Yet we also recognise how these feelings of pain and anger can lead us to lash out blindly in ways that serve only to fuel an unending cycle of violence and revenge.

Smoke billows from the northern part of the Gaza Strip as a result of an Israeli air strike, as seen from Sderot, southern Israel, on 30 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Hannibal Hanschke)

People cook inside a tent complex provided by the United Nations Development Programme for displaced Palestinians who lost their homes in the Israeli bombardment, in Khan Yunis on 29 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Haitham Imad)

“As healthcare workers, we condemn the killing and injury of innocent women, men and children. No person – and especially no child – should have to experience the physical, emotional and psychological trauma of war and violence.  

“We also abhor the devastating blast at the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza – which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent women, men, children and healthcare workers seeking or providing medical care or sheltering in what was supposed to be a safe zone protected under international humanitarian law. Any loss of innocent life is unconscionable, especially the killing of healthcare workers working to save lives.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Middle East Crisis News Hub

The statements calls for “the immediate cessation of hostilities; a commitment by all parties to respect and uphold international law – including the protection of children and health facilities; the release of hostages; the immediate restoration of clean running water, food, medical supplies and electricity to the people of Gaza; and unrestricted access to humanitarian aid and medical care. 

“We also call on the broader international community to draw on their logic, reason and common sense, and to act morally – with a renewed sense of urgency – to broker an immediate ceasefire and seek a lasting solution to the conflict that brings peace and stability to the region, and that safeguards the future of its children. 

“This requires a fair and independent legal process that acknowledges and addresses the deep historic causes of the current crisis; and holds those guilty of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable for their actions.”

Palestinians carry wounded children following Israeli air strikes on northern Gaza on 28 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Mohammed Saber)

Palliative care and access t0 essential medicines for pain relief

The statement is one among many being issued by civil society organisations in South Africa and internationally, including by organisations affiliated to Defend our Democracy calling for a ceasefire and an end to the horror being inflicted by the bombardment of Gaza. 

However, some organisations are also volunteering practical ways to bolster humanitarian efforts. 

For example, a range of palliative care organisations, led by PallCHASE (Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situations and Emergencies) issued a call regarding “access to controlled medicines in conflict settings”. Among the signatories are the Association of Palliative Care Centres (APCC) and Palliative Care for Children South Africa (Patch).

The statement (which you can read here) “supports calls for a ceasefire and the recent statements by humanitarian and UN agencies on the urgent need for unimpeded aid access for the civilian population that includes sufficient fuel for medical facilities, water purification, food and nutritional supplements”. 

It calls on the WHO and humanitarian agencies to:

  • “Include adequate supplies of oral and injectable morphine, and other pain-relieving medicines listed in the WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines in their humanitarian aid response packages;
  • “Ensure an adequate supply of essential medicines for surgery and anaesthesia;
  • “Provide all aid and healthcare workers with guidelines on the safe use and distribution of these essential medicines;
  • “Work with receiving authorities to ensure that controlled medicines are not removed from the emergency kits; and
  • “Include paediatric formulations of essential medicines for children.”

The signatory organisations say they offer their “skills and expertise in pain and symptom management and palliative care as a resource for our colleagues working in humanitarian settings”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Amyisrael Chai says:

    Ironically the children of Gaza would have been fine had Hamas terrorists not infiltrated the South of Israel and shot, decapitated and burnt to death hundreds of Israeli children in one day. This is why the call for a ceasefire is self serving by Hamas and those that support them. A ceasefire would reward Hamas for their massacre and let them off lightly. The fate of the children of Gaza is in the hands of Hamas, not Israel.

    • John P says:

      There is nothing ironic about any of this. From the Oxford dictionary
      “The expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect.
      “‘Don’t go overboard with the gratitude,’ he rejoined with heavy irony”
      a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.
      “the irony is that I thought he could help me””

      Your justification for the murder of thousands of civilians is that a part of their society committed a heinous act. It seems in fact that it is nothing more than a thirst for revenge.

      • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

        The irony is that you think Israel must defend itself for defending itself.

        It would be ironic of you to believe that the “murder of thousands of civilians” “is nothing more than a thirst for revenge”, if ironically you believe that this must have “happened in a vacuum” (to deliberately quote out of context UN Chief Antonio Guterres) and could not have seen the massacre carried out by Hamas on 7 October where “the murder of thousands of civilians” were “nothing more than a thirst for revenge”.

      • Amyisrael Chai says:

        Definition of “Murder” from Oxford English Dictionary: [uncountable, countable] the crime of killing somebody deliberately synonym homicide. There is no deliberate killing by the IDF; ironically (see I did it again) the murder of civilians was performed by Hamas when they went into South Israel specifically to massacre civilians. All the attacks by the IDF are on Hamas targets which are inconveniently in the middle of civilians in Gaza; not so much innocently, more because Hamas uses civilians as human shields. Hamas trumpets the number of Gazan dead like a victory – for one because the more Palestinian dead the more the world puts pressure on Israel. The fact is nobody can verify the number of Gazan dead as the numbers are only reported by the Hamas run Minister of Health who have a self interest in elevating the number of dead civilians and especially children. No more well illustrated by the explosion at Al Ahli Hospital which was later shown to be caused by a rocket fired from Gaza. Numbers of dead an hour after the attack were being reported as more than 800. Subsequently, while the blame has now fallen entirely on Hamas, it has changed to less than 300 people and even that is not confirmed in fact some sources have said very few civilians died in the explosion which actually took place in the hospital parking lot. There is no ‘murder’ of civilians or children by Israel. The only murderers in this evil war is the evil Hamas terrorist organisation.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    The gazans voted these barbarians in as their democratically elected government in 2006. They appear by all accounts to be very happy with the their conduct to date as they seldom if ever come out in opposition to them. Expecting Israel to simmer down and resume their receipt of incessant rocket attacks and occasional terrorist assaults on their population while providing water and electricity to a hostile nation is more than a little unrealistic. Perhaps the social justice warrior types who have so much sympathy with the gazans should lean on their government to put the hostages up in return for a cease fire. Crazy idea I know.

  • Denise Smit says:

    If there are no fuel, how do they keep on firing hundreds of rockets every day on Isreal? The feedback from the female elderly hostage was that there were one doctor per hostage and that any treatment and medicine and food was available. She gave extensive feedback about how prepared they were with everything, lacking nothing. They are pulling wool over your eyes Mr Heywood. Its seems it is very easy for you to forget what happened on 7 October affecting citizens of no less than 30 countries, either murdered or abducted by the terrorists in the most gruesome manner. Denise Smit

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      For the last eight days the media has been reporting that there’s only enough fuel in Gaza to last one more day – it could be a modern-day Hanukka miracle?

    • Bob Dubery says:

      Because the rockets carry their own fuel. All rockets do. The rockets we see being launched in any conflict all carry their own fuel. This need not be, and probably is not, diesel or petrol.

    • Ari Maharaj says:

      Surely you don’t think the same diesel we pump into our car at the garage is what is being used to fire missiles, truly worried about your correlation…

    • Ari Maharaj says:

      So frightening to see that the only semblance of justification that can be made by people in defence of the merciless killing of children is that Hamas is hiding behind them, using them as shields? So the Israeli government, in their intellectual capacity, cannot see any other root but to plow through children in the hopes that what lies behind them are terrorists? And people are believing this nonsense, we are truly moving away from God if anyone can try justify the killing of kids

  • Alan Salmon says:

    Civilians in northern Gaza were warned by Israel to move to the South over a week ago to avoid the bombing. Why are children still in the north ? Do their parents want them to die ? If it was me, I would have moved to the south immediately, even if the conditions are dreadful. Israel has no choice but to root out Hamas fighters and the civilian population need to get out of the way as best they can. During WW2 Germany killed thousands of civilians during the London Blitz , and Britain killed thousands bombing Dresden and Hamburg. It is awful but it is the reality of war.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      I think it’s not that easy to move, especially if you have dependents. It’s not like there’s a lot of infrastructure, nor waiting homes to faciliate the kind of moving of children to safe(r) locations that we saw in WW2 England. And the South of gaza is not free from attack either.

      • Ben Harper says:

        Nonsense, Hamas will not let them move, the Hamas leader Isamel Haniyeh has clearly stated they need to blood of their women, children and elderly to “awaken their revolutionary spirit” another Hamas official, Mousa Abu Marzouk has stated the hundreds of kilometers of tunnels are there for the protection of Hamas, not Palestinian civilians. More inconvenient facts that people to prefer to ignore or omit

        • John P says:

          I do not see a single comment here or on any of the other DM articles that is in favor of Hamas. They are a terrorist organisation and committed a horrible and unjustifiable attack on civilians in Israel.

          That however does not justify the indiscriminate killing of civilians and destruction of residential property in Gaza by the IDF. Israel and it’s allies have the intelligence and the military capability to respond in a far more selective and targeted manner should they so desire.

          • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

            And you know that the IDF is not doing so? Where does your intel come from? It is common knowledge that Hamas uses human shields (women, children and the elderly in particular), stores weapons and operates in urban areas – to generate these sentiments. Thankfully the IDF does use its intelligence and military capability effectively, and that it is in the hands, hearts and control of the right people.

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