Continued focus on children must be the priority for world leaders in the Middle East – MEP Maria Walsh

Latest news from the Middle East welcomed as MEPs set to debate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Midlands-North-West MEP Maria Walsh is, this morning, welcoming news of the four-day pause in fighting. The temporary ceasefire, agreed in the last few hours, will allow much needed humanitarian aid into Gaza. It is hoped that today’s agreement will be a step towards an end to the Israel-Hamas conflict, and according to MEP Walsh, a continued focus on children must be the priority for world leaders. 

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg this morning, the Fine Gael representative noted that much of this week’s plenary debate has been around the protection of children and their right to equality and social protection. While it is critical that these issues are addressed, she said it is imperative that MEPs look beyond their own countries, and indeed Europe as a whole. “We are here in the European Parliament and we are speaking about child poverty, about the care of the child, and about mental health among children. Of course it is crucial that we address these issues, but how can we stand by and watch what’s happening in Gaza?” she asked.

On Tuesday afternoon, MEPs from across Europe voted on two new resolutions. Children first – strengthening the Child guarantee, two years on from its adoption’ focuses on guaranteeing children free and effective access to a set of key services, as well as to healthy nutrition and adequate housing. The second – Reducing inequalities and promoting social inclusion in times of crisis for children and their families – highlights the importance of cross-sectoral efforts and policies in properly supporting and improving the situation of families with children, particularly in vulnerable situations. Both resolutions passed by a sizeable majority, with MEP Walsh voting in favour of each. 

“When we voted on these resolutions, we did so to signal to the Commission that each and every Member State needs to up its game when it comes to the protection of children and associated provision of services. But while our individual priorities are normally focused on our own countries, today it’s about a much bigger picture. I want to echo what the High Representative Mr Borrell said at the key debate in Strasbourg this morning (Wednesday), ‘this could be the opportunity for peace to be built and this is what the European Union wants. We cannot allow the devastation to continue in Gaza. We need to find a two state solution’,” she said.

“At least 5,600 children have already been killed and approximately two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.7 million people are now displaced. The situation in hospitals is catastrophic, with those in Northern Gaza completely out of service. Food assistance only covers 10 per cent of what is needed according to the UN. We are seeing devastating and distressing photos and footage every day, with at least 13,300 Palestinians confirmed dead since October 7th. This war must be permanently stopped and we must reach a resolution on a permanent ceasefire,” continued MEP Walsh. 

This morning, the MEP’s focus is on the need for the release of all hostages during this four- day ceasefire, and the prospects for peace and security in the Middle East. “For more than six weeks, this war has raged and we cannot stand by and allow anymore innocent children – anymore innocent people – to be savagely killed or allowed to die in hospitals without adequate facilities. It’s time we shouted stop,” said MEP Walsh.