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What does the number 17,000 mean in Gaza?

Photo of a child taken care of by medical staff.


Finally, the UN Security Council voted through a demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It was really about time. The world must press on to make it a reality. And at the same time, we must think about all the people and destinies that lie behind the numbers we hear.

The other week it was Mother’s Day in the Middle East. A day that became unspeakably sad for many children in Gaza. This because they no longer know where their mother is. If she exists.

In connection with this, our colleague Ghaith in the Middle East asked: What does the number 17,000 mean these days?

Many of us suspected the almost unbearable answer to his question: 17,000 children are orphaned or lack adult relatives who can take care of them. (March 2024)

One colleague expressed her despair over the numbers – what they really mean – and thought of her own young children: “If my children had become orphans today, they would grow up only knowing their first names. Identity erased. Family erased.”

In a YouTube video, we see thirteen-year-old Mohammad Al Yazji who lost his mother in an airstrike. His father’s fate is unknown, and now it is Mohammad who must take care of his seven younger siblings, the youngest only six months old.

17,000 children orphaned.

And at least 13,000 children have died.

So far.

These are unfathomable numbers.

Our colleagues in the Middle East allow us to hear eyewitness accounts from the raid on Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Al-Shifa Hospital is the largest healthcare facility in the Gaza Strip. At least 170 were killed during the raid. Additionally, bullets from drones killed women who had been instructed to evacuate from there.

Others became trapped in buildings that had been mined.

When parts of the building were then detonated, there were still people left: journalists, healthcare personnel, and patients.

The Red Cross was prevented from entering to rescue and evacuate the injured.

We are also told how families have become prisoners in their homes with their dead relatives. It has not been possible to go out and bury them because of bombs and heavy shelling.

It is easy to feel powerless and paralyzing despair over the reports and images from Gaza. And yet we only see a fraction.

What we must remember is that those in the midst of the tragedy have no choice. So, the least we can do is to look, listen, react, and consider what we can do.

It is fellow human beings who are dying. But we rarely know their names, their stories, their dreams and hopes, their pain.

There are few who can tell, as the situation stands.

In the midst of the darkness with all the dead and injured, in the midst of all the devastation and among all the destroyed homes, there are those who make a difference. Like our fantastic partner organization PMRS, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, on site in Gaza.

Their mobile and courageous healthcare teams navigate through debris and demolished residential areas. They provide emergency medical care. They save and rescue people in need.

Every day.

Now we hope that the ceasefire resolution will truly have an effect for the people in Gaza. Over 30,000 have already died.

We hope that the war and violence will cease and that the hostages will be released. We hope that the humanitarian catastrophe will come to an end, in every way.

But both today and tomorrow, the people in Gaza need our support.

Think about what you can do.

By: triggerfish_root