08/29/2014 09:32 am ET Updated Oct 29, 2014

The Impact of War on Children in Israel and Gaza

It has been a few days since the announcement of a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas -- representing the halt of a conflict that has claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, more than 400 of whom were children.

The Gaza-Israel conflict has also left thousands of children with deep psychological wounds that may take years to heal. Children have lost their families, their homes and their ability to attend school. Nearly half a million children in Gaza will not be able to start school on time because of school damage incurred during the fighting.

It's important to remember that children and youth are the most vulnerable populations in these crises. At critical developmental stages in their lives, they process violence and trauma in a profoundly different way than do adults. And during times of conflict, they are deprived of an opportunity to live a happy, secure childhood without the threat or fear of violence. Schools turn into bomb shelters. Homes shake from shelling and bombing. Fun outdoor activities are unavailable. And in the long term, this exposure to threats and violence create lasting negative effects which can significantly impact their future.

SOS Children's Villages provides loving and safe homes for vulnerable children in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. At our SOS Village in Israel, children were forced to hide in bomb shelters to protect themselves from nearby shelling. At our SOS Village in Rafah, a southern city in the Gaza strip, our children and staff members could feel and see the impact of the war.

"'Why are so many people killed? Why have so many houses been destroyed?' I cannot help with anything. I cannot even answer," shared one of our SOS mothers after speaking with her children about the conflict.

All children have the right to a safe and healthy life, an education, protection and a childhood free from violence. We urge all parties of the conflict to ensure the ceasefire is maintained, and to respect their fundamental obligation under international human rights law to protect the lives and well-being of all children. Children are our future, and deserve to be protected. We must do everything in our power to keep them safe from harm.

To make a direct impact today, sponsor a village in Israel or Gaza and support the children living through this conflict.