Unaccompanied child – MESSAGES FROM GAZA NOW – October 2023 – March 2024

27 February 2024

Unaccompanied child 

Today at 9:25 I received a phone call from a colleague from the Norwegian Refugee Council asking for immediate intervention for an unaccompanied child. She said, 

“There is a child left at Yibna school.” 

According to what she heard; he was brought to the school by the ICRC. 

“This is an absolute urgency!” 

I tried to get more information, but my colleague had nothing but a name and very limited information. The boy had been completely alone in the streets for 11 days, having left Shifa hospital in Gaza more than a month ago. His parents were killed there. He is very skinny, and it is believed that he has severe malnutrition. 

I have a staff member, a counsellor at Yibna school, who I tried to call. But since the war started on Gaza, communications have been very difficult. I could not wait. Yibna school is 20 minutes walking. As I walked, I kept trying to reach my colleague. I arrived at the school-turned-shelter in 15 minutes, went directly to the management office, and introduced myself as a child protection officer from the MA’AN Development Centre. Luckily, they knew of me and my work. 

I did not need to ask about the child, he was there in the room, sitting on a chair eating some rice and cooked beans. He was eating as if he had never eaten before, eating as if it might be the last time he would eat. I moved my eyes away from him, did not want him to feel that he was being watched. 

I addressed the shelter manager: “Did you call the child protection officer at the Ministry of social development?”

The manager: “Should we?” 

“This is the only thing you should do. The Ministry is responsible for unaccompanied children; they will bring him to the SOS Village.”

I called the child protection department, and Mr. Attaf, the shelter manager, told them about the child. They will send a female child protection officer in minutes. 

The child finished eating and started staring at the ceiling. I got close to him. 

“Hi, my name is Hossam.”

He moved his head down slowly, looked at me and said, “I am Ahmad.”

“Where are from, Ahmad?”

“From Gaza.”

“You are alone, where is your family?”

“They are dead.”

I stopped, I could not ask anything more.  The child was speaking flatly, with no feelings, no reactions. 

“How did you get here?”

“They were shot dead.” 


“We left Shifa hospital by the sea road, they shoot at us, my mother, my father, my older brother, people ran everywhere, I ran, I ran, I ran!”


“Do you have family in Rafah? Uncles, aunts?”

He looked at me, then looked at the ceiling, not speaking for a while. I kept waiting, not talking. 

“I slept in the streets, in Nuseirat, in Zawaida, in Dir Al Balah. I was afraid, I am not afraid anymore, I am cold.”

“I will get you a jacket now, and shoes.” (He was not wearing shoes, his feet looked very dark, almost black. I hope it is only dirt and not something else…)

“Listen, a good lady will come now from the ministry. She will take care of you. Is that ok?”



“Do you feel any pain?”

“Yes, my head, my legs, my stomach.”


“Don’t worry, we will take you to hospital for checkup. Ok?”

“Not Shifa hospital!”

“No, no, not Shifa hospital.”



I really don’t know what this child went through. I don’t know how many days he was walking. I don’t know how many hours he walked. I don’t know what nightmares he had. I did not want to keep talking with him about it.

He lifted his head again to the ceiling. I was speechless. He needs a specialised psychiatrist, and I did not want to take the risk of asking wrong questions. 

“Do you want some tea, hot tea?”

He moved his head with a “yes” gesture. 

The manager of the shelter was clever, while I was talking with the child he went out and came back with a jacket and shoes. He gave them to me, and I gave them to Ahmad, who took them and started putting them on. No reaction, mechanical movements without any reactions. 

The Ministry child protection officer arrived, introduced herself, and showed her badge. I moved aside to give her the space to do her job. Then I left. 

Today I called the ministry to check on Ahmad, he has been taken care of. They took him to the hospital. He was, indeed, malnourished, and they gave him some supplements. Then he was brought to the SOS Village, an organisation hosting orphans and unaccompanied children. He is in good hands for the time being. 

They will start looking for any immediate relatives and try to integrate him into his own family, otherwise he will stay at SOS until further notice. 

To date, SOS has received 66 unaccompanied children. How many children like Ahmad are there who have not been reached and are now left alone? Who knows?