10 children per day losing one or two legs in Gaza: UNRWA

A woman and a man comfort an injured boy mourning the loss of his father who was killed in the aftermath of overnight Israeli bombardment in al-Maghazi in the central Gaza Strip, at the morgue of the Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir el-Balah on 25 June, 2024AFP

Ten children per day are losing one or both of their legs in the war in Gaza, the head of the UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees said Tuesday.

"Basically we have every day 10 children who are losing one leg or two legs on average," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told reporters in Geneva.

Citing figures from the UN children's agency UNICEF, he said that number "does not even include the arms and the hands, and we have many more" of these.

"Ten per day, that means around 2,000 children after the more than 260 days of this brutal war," Lazzarini said.

He said amputation often takes place "in quite horrible conditions, and sometimes without anaesthesia".

Children in Gaza today are paying a "high price", Lazzarini said.

He pointed to findings published by Save the Children on Monday that up to 21,000 children are estimated to be missing in the chaos of the war in Gaza.

At least 17,000 children are believed to be unaccompanied and separated, while around 4,000 are likely missing under the rubble and an unknown number are believed to be in mass graves, the report said.

Those numbers come in addition to the thousands of children who figure among the at least 37,658 people that the Gaza health ministry says have been killed in Israel's retaliatory offensive in Gaza following Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel.

That attack, which sparked the war, resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also took 251 people hostage in the attack, 116 of whom remain captive in the Gaza Strip, according to Israel. The army says 42 of those are dead.

Funding crisis

UNRWA coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, but Lazzarini warned that the agency was facing relentless attack and deep funding woes.

The agency, which has been significantly underfunded for years, has been plunged into crisis since January, when Israel accused a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of involvement in Hamas's October 7 attack.

A slew of probes, including one led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some "neutrality related issues" at UNRWA but stressed that Israel had not provided evidence for its chief allegations.

A separate independent investigation by the UN's internal oversight body is ongoing, with probes of 14 UNRWA employees underway, Lazzarini said.

The accusations prompted several countries to suspend funding to UNRWA.

Many -- though not top donor the United States, nor Britain -- have resumed payments but Lazzarini said funding woes persisted.

"We have cash until end of August," he said Tuesday, adding that the agency still had "a shortfall of about $140 million... to bridge the end of the year".