'Wounded Child No Surviving Family' in Gaza: UAE official highlights 'heartbreaking' acronym WCNSF

Medical professionals in the Strip coined the term due to the high number of children without surviving family members arriving for medical care

by

Sahim Salim

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Newborns are placed in bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza's Al Shifa hospital after power outage, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Photo: Reuters
Newborns are placed in bed after being taken off incubators in Gaza's Al Shifa hospital after power outage, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Photo: Reuters

Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 2:14 PM

Last updated: Tue 14 Nov 2023, 7:47 AM

A UAE diplomat has referred to the “heartbreaking” acronym coined by healthcare workers in Gaza: WCNSF, which stands for ‘wounded child, no surviving family’.

“I just want to let that sink in,” said Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as she addressed the Security Council over the weekend.

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The acronym refers to injured children who need special medical attention, but have no loved ones to take care of them. According to charity organisation Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières - MSF), which provides humanitarian medical care, children in Gaza are being brought in with majority of their bodies burned. These are “extremely severe injuries” that are hard to treat effectively even in high-resource settings.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's Permanent Representative to the United Nations
Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's Permanent Representative to the United Nations

“Our doctors have experience treating children who are fighting for their lives. In these situations, they say children need two main things: They need pain relief and they need the security of their families. Today, too many children in Gaza don’t have either of those things,” Avril Benoît, executive director of MSF-USA, wrote in an article posted on the organisation’s website.

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan had recently referred to WCNSF, highlighting how the acronym “should never exist”, but does in Gaza.

A premature Palestinian baby lies in an incubator at the maternity ward of Shifa Hospital. Photo: Reuters
A premature Palestinian baby lies in an incubator at the maternity ward of Shifa Hospital. Photo: Reuters

According to humanitarian organisation Save The Children, medical professionals in Gaza coined the term due to the high number of children without surviving family members arriving for medical care.

In an article, the organisation said family support is a “critical coping mechanism” for children experiencing trauma.

"There is no safe place, no sense of security and no routine, with thousands displaced from their homes. Caregivers experiencing their own stress are struggling to help children cope with the overwhelming emotional reactions typical of young people traumatised by violence," it said in the article posted on its website.

Civilians paying the price

In her speech, Nusseibeh said Israel may be at war with Hamas, but those paying the price are “civilians in the thousands”.

She said more than half of the 2,650 people currently reported as trapped under rubble are children. “But they’re not just children, they’re Palestine’s future and they’re also Israel’s future neighbours, and we should spare no effort to protect them and save both peoples from this road of war that we are on.”

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

She shared the story of Alaa Zaheer Ahmed, a third-year medical school student who grew up in Khan Yunis refugee camp. On October 10, she was designing a poster for breast cancer awareness when an Israeli airstrike leveled her home, pinning her legs under the wreckage. “Hours later, Alaa’s relatives and rescue workers pulled her from the rubble. They also recovered the lifeless bodies of her mother, her brother and her nephew.”

Nusseibeh talked about baby Talia, who was born in Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, on October 6. Her heartbeat depends on a mechanical ventilator, “straining generators and dwindling fuel supply”.

“With the strike on the hospital … and reports of the desperate evacuations on foot, I can’t even begin to imagine what has happened to Talia– but we must not turn away from these stories. Like Talia, there are 130 other premature babies that are reliant on incubators to breathe.”

The diplomat explained what the barrage of targeted attacks launched on schools and hospitals means: “Babies, children and the elderly, who are seeking refuge and care in those facilities ‒ are also under attack. There are over 110,000 patients, including children, suffering from burns to their faces so severe that they are suffocating – with no access to antibiotics or burn cream. Women are giving birth in the most unsanitary conditions known to mankind, without medicines, and C-sections are being performed without anesthesia.”

Palestinian children queue to receive a portion of food at a make-shift charity kitchen in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 8, 2023. Photo: AFP
Palestinian children queue to receive a portion of food at a make-shift charity kitchen in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 8, 2023. Photo: AFP

Israeli attacks ‘cruel and inhumane’

She said there is “no doubt” that the attacks by Israel in pursuit of its security are “disproportionate, cruel, and inhumane”.

“We are witnessing the making of a lost generation of children and youth, physically and mentally scarred by these experiences.”

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