* 251 boys and 157 girls killed; most under 12 years old
* UNICEF says 373,000 children need psycho-social support
* Damage to water supplies allows spread of disease
* Cost of reconstruction hundreds of millions of dollars
By Tom Miles
GENEVA, Aug 5 More than 400 children have been
killed in Israel's assault on Gaza, and almost a thousand times
as many are traumatised and face an "extraordinarily bleak"
future, the top UNICEF official in Gaza said on Tuesday.
Pernille Ironside, head of the field office run by the U.N.
children's agency in Gaza, said rebuilding children's lives
would be part of a much larger effort to reconstruct the
Palestinian enclave once the fighting has stopped for good.
"How do we expect parents and caregivers to care for their
children and to raise them in a positive and nurturing way when
they themselves are barely functioning as humans? People have
lost entire strands of their family in one blow.
"How can a society cope with this? This is a deep, deep,
deep wound," she said by phone, addressing a U.N news conference
By Aug. 4, 408 Palestinian children were reported to have
been killed, 31 percent of all civilian casualties. More than 70
percent of the 251 boys and 157 girls killed were 12 or younger.
Even before the latest violence, Gaza's children were
schooled in shifts because of a lack of schools and graduated
into a job market with 59 percent youth unemployment.
"If you're over the age of seven, you've already lived
through two previous wars," and the latest escalation was far
worse than those in 2008-9 and 2012, Ironside said.
"It is an extraordinary thing to live through, and
especially to survive and witness the use of incredibly damaging
weapons that tend to slice people with terrible amputations and
maimings, shredding people apart in front of children's eyes and
in front of their parents as well," she said.
UNICEF estimates about 373,000 children have had some kind
of direct traumatic experience and require immediate
psycho-social support, she said.
"This is an incredible endeavour to embark on, and quite
daunting for the teams that we already have on the ground. But
of course we're committed to seeking that work through over the
months and years that it will require."
Humanitarian workers were at their limit, she said, citing
Israel's destruction of electric power supplies that had
exacerbated an already parlous water supply situation by putting
water pumping facilities out of action.
"There's only very limited amount of water available. It's
used for drinking, which means there's insufficient water for
hygiene. We see children coming out of these shelters with
scabies, lice, all kinds of communciable diseases.
"Even worse is that in the communities outside of the
shelters, most people have not had any access to water through
the system for several weeks now. They are in a terrible state
in terms of being able to accees any kind of clean drinking
water that's not contaminated by sewage."
That could lead to diarrhoea and the further deaths of
children, particularly under-fives, she said.
Ironside estimated that just sheltering families whose homes
had been destroyed would cost $40-50 million in the next year,
which would be a small fraction of the total reconstruction
"I would estimate we're looking at hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of millions of dollars. And certainly the question
needs to be closely considered, who will pay for it: Is it the
occupying power who inflicted it? Or is it the international
community who are going to pay the bill again?"
But she said neither the international community nor the
Palestinians would accept the rebuilding of Gaza on the same
terms as before, and suggested Israel's tight control on
building supplies coming into Gaza needed to be relaxed.
"The amount of time and resources just to coordinate one bag
of cement are astounding. Is this where the resources of the
United Nations should be placed, on the coordination and
approval of minutia?"
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians,
most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three
civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8, after
a surge in Palestinian rocket launches.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Andrew Roche)