File photo: A woman prepares fresh dough for bread as she sits next to a man and children outside tents by the rubble of a destroyed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on January 2, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Image Credit: AFP

Geneva: At least 17,000 children in the Gaza Strip are now either unaccompanied by or separated from their parents or relatives, the United Nations (UN) has estimated.

Speaking from Jerusalem on Friday, Jonathan Crickx, chief of communication in the State of Palestine for the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said this figure corresponds to one per cent of the 1.7 million people who have been displaced in Gaza. The total population in the enclave is around 2.3 million, Xinhua news agency reported.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

The UN official, who visited Gaza this week, said he had met 12 children there, three of whom had lost a parent.

"Behind each of those statistics is a child coming to terms with this horrible new reality," he said.

For example, 11-year-old Razan, had lost almost all her family members, and her leg had to be amputated, he said. "She was still in shock, learning to live with a disability in the context where rehabilitation services were not available."

Due to a lack of food, water and shelter, extended families are unable to take care of extra children, he said.

The mental health of Palestinian children is severely impacted, he said. They have been displaying extremely high levels of anxiety, loss of appetite, insomnia and panic every time they hear the bombings.

"UNICEF now estimates that almost all children of Gaza, more than one million, need mental health and psychosocial support," the UN official noted.

"The only way to have this mental health and psychosocial support delivered at scale is with a ceasefire," he concluded.