- High death toll among children: 44 killed since outbreak of hostilities, almost a quarter were below 10 years old. Some 335 children remain in detention facilities.
- In Gaza, stocks of essential medicines and disposables are at critical levels. Electricity and water shortages, along with reductions in services, are hurting children.
- Children are living in an environment of extraordinary violence, insecurity and fear; demand for psychosocial assistance has risen significantly.
- Severely curtailed opportunities for safe play and recreation over summer holidays.
- Funding gap of $8 million for Back-to-School campaign, health, water and sanitation.
Life has gotten much worse for children since hostilities broke out in Gaza. The 39 children killed in July alone is the second highest child death toll since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000.
While conditions have long been precarious in Gaza, the current escalation of violence is debilitating the Strip. Supplies of electricity, water and fuel are scarce and unreliable. Stocks of essential medicines are at critical levels, and health facilities struggle to provide adequate care. Power shortages raise concerns over food and water safety. Commodities cost more. The spread of communicable disease remains a potent threat due to piling garbage and overflowing sewage.
In the West Bank, residents live with military incursions and onerous restrictions to movement and access. The pressure on basic services is mounting, and tensions are flaring. Across oPt, 70% of households fall below the poverty threshold; in Gaza, 70% cannot meet their daily food needs without help.
Caregivers report signs of distress among children, and psychosocial counseling teams are responding to a substantial increase in requests for assistance. Children are afraid to play outdoors, and with schools closed and limited opportunities to engage with their peers, most have been confined to their homes. Going back to school in September is critical to bringing some normalcy back to their lives.
Health, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation
Essential drugs and disposables are in short supply. In the West Bank, movement and access restrictions, fuel shortages, and vehicle breakdowns hamper health care delivery in isolated areas. In Gaza, all hospitals and half of primary health care facilities now run on generators. Immunization services have been adjusted around operational restrictions. Higher pressure on the health system is resulting in lower service delivery.
Malnutrition is rising; anemia remains a severe public health challenge; and there are signs of higher diarrhea incidence among children, particularly in Gaza. Anecdotal evidence points to rising cases of skin allergies.
Damage to the water infrastructure is extensive, and most families in urban areas have only 2-3 hours of water per day. Water safety is a growing concern.
Most teachers have gone without paychecks for almost half a year. Even though the PA is cutting school fees from US$11 to US$5, many families, notably those with more than one child, will struggle to buy the uniforms and supplies their children need when schools re-open in September.
Education quality continues to be a major challenge. Schools lack basic materials, and few teachers have the skills set needed to create child-friendly learning environments. Levels of violence in schools are rising, along with drop out rates, particularly for older children. Outside classrooms, students have few opportunities for sports and recreation.
The conflict has had a particularly damaging impact on adolescents, who comprise a large, vulnerable and volatile group. Those most directly exposed to violence have the greatest need for productive learning and recreational opportunities.
At least two-thirds of adolescents in the West Bank and Gaza do not have safe spaces for recreation. Most of the 300 youth clubs across oPt lack funding, and are poorly managed and equipped. Programs offered are usually limited to simple sporting activities without proper equipment.
Adolescents who are two or three levels below their normal grade often end up dropping out of school and joining the unskilled labour market. Worsening socio-economic conditions point to the likelihood that the numbers of adolescents vulnerable to abuse, violence, and exploitation will increase.
The number of children killed in July alone (39) is the second highest number of children killed since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000. This more than quadruples the number of children killed in June. Some 335 children continue to be held in detention facilities.
Children are showing signs of acute stress, due in particular to shelling and sonic booms. These include anxiety, sleeping disorders, nightmares, aggressive behaviour and withdrawal. Prolonged exposure can leave lasting impact on child development.
Many parents say they feel unable to support their children because they themselves are overwhelmed by economic and conflict-induced stress. Requests for assistance from UNICEF-supported psychosocial teams have risen significantly.
Although children are on summer break, most are confined to their homes because of the fighting. Activities they would normally have looked forward to have been canceled due to lack of funding, further compounding their frustration and isolation.
UNICEF has procured or pre-positioned USD 2.9 million in medical supplies for over 400 health clinics. All vaccines for 2006 have been delivered, and procurement for 2007 is almost complete. Eight generators have been delivered to primary health facilities. UNICEF and UNFPA continue to support fuel costs and help maintain or rent vehicles for MoH so that mobile health teams can reach isolated communities.
Over 180 primary health care facilities have been upgraded with equipment and supplies, and the neonatal units in 17 general hospitals are receiving a broad package of supplies, equipment and training to improve newborn care. Training in emergency maternal and child care, in growth monitoring and promotion, and in managing malnutrition has been provided to 125 health workers.
UNICEF provided more than 400,000 bottles of iron syrup, 13 million iron and folic acid tablets, and 108 thousand bottles of vitamin A and D supplements, and has helped promote breastfeeding and appropriate child feeding practices. To better monitor child nutritional status, UNICEF and WFP will implement nutrition surveillance and a targeted school feeding programme.
1,200 water kits serving 10 families each were distributed or pre-positioned in hard hit areas, and five 5,000-liter water tankers, procured for the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility will be delivered next week. Five wells are being drilled in areas where there are concerns about the aquifers and little access to water. Some 300 family hygiene and 700 infant hygiene kits were pre-positioned or distributed to families affected by military incursions, and 17 displaced families received emergency hygiene kits.
To address water safety concerns, UNICEF procured 25 water testing kits for the Costal Municipalities Water Utility. An awareness-raising campaign targeting at-risk populations on hygiene, food and water safety is being mapped out with MoH.
Ten schools in former enclaves or conflict zones have received a comprehensive package including lab and sports equipment, computers, library furniture and books, and training. Across oPt, UNICEF has delivered 380 school-in-a box kits (each kit contains material for up of 80 students and 2 teachers) and 1,000 recreational kits containing art supplies and sports equipment. Training in child-friendly teaching methods is ongoing.
In Gaza, 36 centres provide 4,100 children with much-needed respite from the violence and stress that surrounds them. Summer activities including music, arts and crafts are ongoing in Nablus, Jenin and Hebron for 210 children.
Because of lack of funding caused by the financial boycott, MoEHE requested UNICEF to support one month's transportation costs for teachers giving the Tawjihi (national college entrance) examinations.
UNICEF is supporting the PA in a Back to School campaign as part of an inter-agency effort to bring all students and teachers back into classrooms this September. UNICEF has ordered:
- 210,000 school bags including basic stationary and supplies, and 50,000 uniforms, for vulnerable children.
- 1,000 sets of science and math kits containing hands-on teaching aids such as models and charts, for schools in hard-hit areas.
- 151,000 sets of remedial worksheets in Arabic, English, Math and Science are being reprinted; 18,000 will be shared with UNRWA schools in the West Bank, along with 20 CD-ROMS for Gaza schools.
The campaign includes a social mobilization component to galvanize local community support for education, as well as international funding. Elements include TV and radio spots, focus groups, and a media launch.
Around 6,200 adolescents participate each month in activities at 23 safe play areas established by UNICEF in isolated, deprived or incursion-prone zones. Art and sports equipment have been provided to each of the sites. Tens of thousands of children and adolescents also use the safe play areas for non-structured recreational activity.
In Gaza, around 500 indoor recreation kits including art supplies, stationary and sports equipment have been distributed to families in or near combat zones, enabling about 2,000 children and adolescents to play at home safely. UNICEF supported training for 24 university students in Gaza on peer-to-peer counseling.
Four youth clubs (2 in Gaza, 2 in the West Bank) in areas with a high proportion of school drop outs have been selected to host "adolescent-friendly learning spaces" that will provide non-formal education and extra-curricular activities. Each clubs has formed its local management committee, including adolescents. Eight facilitators will be recruited to conduct activities ranging from sports, information technology, music, art, drama as well as a literacy program. Some 640 adolescents are expected to benefit every month.
Training is ongoing for adolescents, facilitators and community members running safe spaces and youth clubs so that they are well versed in child rights and in how to interact with children. More than 150 have been trained.
Twelve psychosocial emergency teams operate across oPt: seven in the West Bank and five in Gaza, covering 12 out of 15 districts. Since January 2006:
- 23,532 children have participated in psychosocial sessions that strengthen their capacity to protect themselves and to cope with violence;
- Of them, 6,168 children were referred for in-depth counseling.
- In addition, 11,051 caregivers have received training on how to support children in distress and to foster a healthy family environment, as well as on how to deal with their own stress.
- 475 home and hospital visits took place following violent events.
To cope with the crisis in Gaza, 20 outreach centers are now open from 8 am to 4 pm to provide individual counseling. A toll-free counseling line, staffed by teams of social workers, lawyers and psychologists, provides support from 9 a.m. to midnight.
Some 50 "fun days" have been organized throughout the summer to get children out of their homes. To date, 13,077 children have benefited from this, including 4,546 in June and July. In August, these festivals are running every day in order to get children out of their homes and provide them with an outlet for stress.
Five socio-legal defense centers have begun providing psychological, social or legal assistance to children who are victims of violence, conflict-related or otherwise. More than 2,000 children and parents have received support since end-June.
Over the past three months, mine risk education has targeted 5,000 children in high risk areas including Northern Gaza. Thirty more volunteers have been trained, bringing total to 66. In the past week, MRE songs produced by UNICEF and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society have aired on a local youth radio channel.
4. APPEAL REQUIREMENTS AND RECEIPTS
UNICEF's CAP was originally budgeted at USD 8.4 million based on the needs assessment framework completed in November 2005. In light of recent developments in the humanitarian context, additional funds for the emergency response amount to USD 14.3 million, for a total requirement of USD 22.7 million. The breakdown is as follows:
As of 20 August, donors had contributed some US$ 10.8 million, or around 47% of the appeal. Approximately US$4.2 million is in the pipeline but has not yet been confirmed.