UNICEF opens summer camps for Palestinian children
GAZA, 6 July 2002 - A record number of Palestinian children will have a chance to attend child-friendly summer camps this year, with the first of more than 180 such camps opening in the Occupied Palestinian Territory today, UNICEF said.
"This is a wonderful, and absolutely vital, opportunity for Palestinian children," said Pierre Poupard, UNICEF's Special Representative to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, during the opening of the "HOPE" summer camp in Gaza. "With school out, the camps give young people a safe place to spend their days, a desperately needed chance to have some fun, and an important opportunity to pick up vital life skills to cope with the daily challenges they face."
Among other things, the camps supported by UNICEF will teach young people how to cope with stress and anxiety and help build their problem-solving and decision-making skills. The camps will also provide an opportunity for children to speak openly and freely with others their own age about the traumatic events they have witnessed.
Since September 2000, almost all Palestinian children and youth have witnessed traumatic events - including the death and injury of family and friends; house-to-house searches; the humiliating round-up and detention of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; the demolition of homes; confinement under curfew; and denial of access to basic social services. Frequent exposure to such events causes serious damage to children's confidence in adults, increases their acceptance of violence as a method for resolving problems, and dims their hope in the future.
"The psycho-social activities the camps will provide for children are very important," said Poupard. "More and more Palestinian children are feeling despair. These young people are looking for constructive ways to continue to cope with the situation, and the summer camps offer a crucial opportunity for children to express their fears and deal with the ongoing crisis in peaceful and non-violent ways."
UNICEF said its successful support of nine camps in the summer of 2001 led to a major expansion of the program, which this year will include support to more than 180 summer camps. The camps will cater to nearly 20,000 children between the ages of 6 and 12, and to some 12,500 between the ages of 12 and 18.
The summer camps - which run anywhere from two to four weeks - are administered by the Palestinian ministries of Youth and Education, with the support of UNICEF, and are being run in accordance with many of the values embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child - care, protection, participation, and dignity.
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