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Date posted: October 20, 2005
By UNICEF

1. ISSUES FOR CHILDREN

Some of the most significant changes in the five-year conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) have occurred over the last nine months. Aside from the disengagement in the Gaza Strip and withdrawal of four settlements in the northern West Bank, which has reduced the exposure of children to death and injury, there has been a continued system of closures in the West Bank which seriously affects both the economic and social fabric of the Palestinian society including the right to education, play, health and nutrition. The number of Palestinian children in Israeli detention remains at the same level as in early 2004, with some 285 children in detention.

Children are still living with distress and continue to be vulnerable. The chronic anxiety undermines self-esteem and feelings of loss of control due to the erosion of households coping mechanisms adversely affect family relationships. The violence in homes and schools is an issue of increasing concern and closely linked with the surrounding pressures stemming from the external environment. Furthermore, the situation in West Bank and Gaza remains volatile. The most recent incidents in late September in and around Gaza illustrate this, and indicate how children and schools can be affected. No doubt with half of the 1.3 million residents under the age of 18 years and three quarters of all households having at least one child in school, daily events in Gaza affect children in an immediate and significant manner. More and more households are deprived of their income, isolated from basic services and cut off from their usual social support networks. As a result, several studies indicate that affected family and social relationships trigger high levels of violence in homes and schools.

HEALTH AND NUTRITION

Chronic malnutrition (stunting) in children under five has increased to almost 10 percent, with children in the Gaza strip most affected. Thus 50,000 children are malnourished. The burden of malnutrition is mostly carried by children 12-23 months old more than 15% of them are malnourished at this critical period, making them vulnerable after the end of the infant period.

Basic equipment for maternal and new born health is lacking and families and communities are insufficiently equipped with the necessary knowledge and practices to prevent and manage the most common childhood diseases. Current practices in clinics and hospitals do not use enough cost-effective interventions for mothers and newborns, in order to increase their chances for survival and growth.

The adoption, expansion and scaling up to full implementation of an integrated strategy in managing common childhood illnesses is key to ensure the health and wellbeing of Palestinian children, including psychosocial care of the young child as an integral part.

EDUCATION

The major issue of concern is to ensure full access to education services and to guarantee that high-quality learning is provided in a child-friendly environment. Access to education continues to be challenged by restrictions of movement, in particular for the teachers. The quality of education is showing signs of decline and in the worst affected areas, the learning achievements for students are deteriorating. Few children have the opportunity to experience a child-friendly learning environment with safe spaces and opportunities for sports and recreation. In addition, children lack educational materials and schools lack good teaching aids. While the child-friendly school concept is being promoted throughout oPt, the concept is challenged in particular in confrontational areas. In these areas it is necessary to adapt the child-friendly school concept to learners needs and link it with psychosocial and child protection services, while ensuring outreach to local communities.

ADOLESCENTS

Adolescents have limited opportunities to play and exercise in areas safe for them. Close to half of the children in West Bank and Gaza spend very limited time on extra-curricular activities like sports or playing outdoors. Overall, young Palestinians spent their spare time at home and few girls get opportunities to interact with peers outside their homes. Violence in the lives of adolescents is on the increase both at home and in school. There is now, more than ever, a need to create safe and friendly spaces to foster opportunities for play and exercise.

CHILD PROTECTION AND PSYCHOSOCIAL WELLBEING

Although general levels of violence have decreased in 2005, the situation in the West Bank and Gaza remained tense even after the disengagement period. After the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the withdrawal of four settlements from the West Bank, children in Gaza are not exposed to military incursions and house demolitions as they were earlier. More than ever, children need sustained psychosocial support in order to return to normalcy. The withdrawal will inevitably give rise to new expectations for youth, which, if they are not fulfilled, might in turn increase their frustration. In a changing environment, they need new outlets and to be fully involved in the improvement of the lives of their communities.

The threat of unexploded ordinance (UXO) is on the increase and has become an issue of greater concern within the last few months. This is due to the fact that children have access to areas they previously could not reach and with the withdrawal of the settlers and IDF from Gaza and the settlements of Ganim, Kadim, Sanur and Homesh the danger to children, particularly in the surrounding areas, has increased. Between January and end June this year, three children have been killed and 16 injured by explosive remnants of war.

To View the Full Report as PDF (48 KB)

Source: UNICEF, Donor Update 20 October 2005
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