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Unidentified Angels, The Wound Child No Surviving Family (WCNSF) Epidemic in Conflict-Torn Gaza

Updated: May 20

LIFE is Providing Support and Relief for Gaza's Growing Orphan Population Through Critical Food Distributions and Orphan Sponsorship 


WCNSF stands for “wounded child, no surviving family”.  The growth in the number of injured Gazan children whose identity is unknown necessitated this new acronym. It is a term not infrequently used these days by hospital personnel when children arrive in need of care.  

 

They are arriving with blast injuries like severe burns and crush appendages.  Oftentimes amputation is the only option to save their lives – everyday, more than ten children lose one or both their legs.    

 

Since the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict, a total of 32,975 Palestinians have been killed and 75,577 have been injured since October 2023, 40% of casualties are believed to be minors.  In the chaos of forced displacement, the United Nations estimates 17,000 children are separated from their families.   

 

Injured and unaccompanied children are brought to hospitals, in shock at the horrors of their situation, and too stunned to speak.  They are living a nightmare they cannot escape, tortured by the reality that not only are they hurt, but the ones who are supposed to take care and comfort them, are gone.   

 

Aid workers make every effort to identify, document, and reunite children with relatives.  However, the extremely challenging conditions are hindering the process.  Movement restrictions across the border and checkpoints limit aid access, which means restricted use of fuel and resources, as well as a lack of safety for aid workers and convoys.     

 

The use of the internet is invaluable in spreading the word about unidentified children, but communication blackouts impede the response efforts. 

 

Once identified, extended families usually take in these traumatized children. They draw strength from their love to overcome the challenges of taking in more children when they are already struggling for resources and physically and emotionally exhausted after months of conflict.  

 

As the protracted conflict continues, the number of WCNSFs grows.  The actual number of WCNSF is unknown, as the situation in Gaza is chaotic and changes happen on a dime.  Aid workers are at a loss, as it is "almost impossible" to identify safe, temporary care arrangements due to "chaotic and overcrowded" shelters and hospitals, according to Ricardo Pires, communication specialist for UNICEF.   

  

Some Palestinians have resorted to writing their names on their and their children’s bodies for identification in case they are found injured or dead. What a morbid turn on what children usually do for fun or self-expression.   

 

The Gaza Strip has been a place of protests, military operations, and violence for decades.  It is a tough place to grow up and, “about 500,000 children already needed mental health and psychosocial support in Gaza before hostilities began”, according to UNICEF.  

 

Since the war, it is estimated almost all children are developing severe trauma symptoms.  Fadel Abu Heen, a psychiatrist in Gaza, observed “symptoms such as convulsions, bed-wetting, fear, aggressive behavior, nervousness, and not leaving their parents’ sides.” 

 

The “lack of any safe place has created a general sense of fear and horror among the entire population and children are most impacted,” he said. 

A war zone is no place for children. Innocence, laughter, and curiosity are replaced with fear, anxiety, and tears. Every child living through the escalation in Gaza has been traumatized for a lifetime by death, destruction, and repeated displacement.   

 

For children in Gaza, the threat of physical harm extends beyond bullets and bombs. The lack of clean water, food, and sanitation–all of which leads to illness–is increasing the risk of preventable child deaths.   

 

In an unsettling report–Nutrition Vulnerability and Situation Analysis- Gaza–shows the severity of the deprivation, especially in Northern Gaza and Rafah.   

 

The key findings paint a grim picture of displaced Palestinians: 

 

Over 90% of children aged 6–23 months and pregnant and breastfeeding women face severe food poverty- having access to only foods of the lowest nutritional value.  

 

99.3% of households are food insecure.  

 

At least 90% of children under 5 are affected by one or more infectious diseases and 70% have had diarrhea in the past two weeks.  

 

81% of households lack safe and clean water, with average household access at less than one liter per person per day. This is far from the minimum standard of 15L per person per day and is of particular concern for babies being fed infant formula. 

 

Many lack nutritious food, leaving them vulnerable to acute malnutrition. Malnutrition, lack of drinking water, and sanitation facilities could exacerbate the severity of infectious diseases. In addition, partially functional hospitals overrun with wounded cannot attend to the sick because of the lack of medicine.   

 

It is a cascade of events that could lead to significant suffering and death in children, especially those under five years of age.   

 

Approaching famine-level starvation, the lives of displaced Gazans hang on a knife’s edge.   

 

 

 

The US State Department says the lack of trucks is one of its biggest problems right now.  

 

 

Fortunately, Life for Relief and Development has found ways to reach hungry Gazans.   

In collaboration with the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, a new convoy was dispatched, loaded with wheat, to the Gaza Strip through the World Food Programme (WFP).  

 

March 25th, 2024, marked the first in a series of trucks bringing wheat into Gaza, amounting to 200 tonnes by the end. It is part of a plan that includes a continuous support chain of aid, enabling them to overcome their difficult situation.   

 

This is the first step in a series of many that LIFE has taken to alleviate some of the suffering of the children and families in Gaza. Besides this distribution and many others like it, LIFE encourages donors to sponsor an orphan from Gaza.  

 

For those WCNSF who remain unidentified, they have lost everything, including their identity. They must now rely on the kindness of strangers to survive. If it speaks to your heart, kindly consider sponsoring a WCNSF. Under the sponsorship of $60 a month, they would receive shelter, food, clothing, education, and medical care.   

 

As we do not know their names, it will take time to catalog each orphan and their story. We will not let this stop us from providing for these orphans when they need it most. So, we have posted nameless profiles that state they are either a girl or a boy. You can choose either and know that your monthly sponsorship is reaching the children of Gaza.  

 

 

Ensuring that a WCNSF has their basic needs met significantly alleviates their hardship. Your support holds immense potential to make a difference in their lives. Every contribution offers a measure of security and hope, a potential for rest and healing. While their reality may never fully return to "normal," we can lessen their burdens and provide support as they navigate their journey ahead. 

 

"In sponsoring an orphan, you're not just changing their world; you're changing the trajectory of humanity for the better." - Nelson Mandela





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