Last week saw the culmination of six weeks of protests in Gaza, which have proved so devastating for children and their families. Shockingly, more than 250 Palestinian children have been shot with live ammunition, including a child as young as eight years old. Hundreds more have been injured during the protests, many sustaining appalling, life-changing disabilities.
Palestinian children and their families are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with living conditions in Gaza, the consequence of the ten-year blockade and the legacy of three wars.
Gaza is a particularly harrowing expression of a wider threat facing children living in conflict. We are witnessing the rapid urbanisation of war, the growing use of explosive weapons in populated areas and more protracted and complex armed conflicts. Recent research by the charity Save the Children has shown that at least 357 million children globally are living in areas affected by high-intensity conflict.
The United Kingdom has rightly supported an investigation into events in Gaza; but we can, and must, do much more to protect children globally at a time when international legal frameworks are crumbling and a sense of impunity is on the rise.
The Royal United Services Institute and Save the Children recently published a report examining how a combination of British leadership in humanitarian response, diplomatic strength and military capability can drive measures to protect civilians in conflict.
British proven expertise in peacekeeping has demonstrated that positive changes in policy and practice can reduce the tragic impact of conflict on civilians. Our respected armed forces can improve the capability of other nations to address the new challenges of urbanised conflict. Our extensive diplomatic network enables us to champion accountability and help ensure that perpetrators answer for their actions. And our world-class Department for International Development can help rebuild lives through emergency relief and the development of child mental health services.
Despite the scale of the challenge, there is much that we as a country can be doing to ease the plight of children living in the hell that is Gaza, and dozens of other Gazas around the globe.