REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
9 September 2014
Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recalled that the new academic year in the Gaza Strip was about to start on 14 September. The resumption of classes had been delayed for three weeks and should have started on 24 August. Mr. Boulierac reiterated that Gaza children had suffered serious psychological trauma. At least 501 children had died in Gaza during the 50-day conflict and over 3,370 had been injured. Many of them had been secluded at home for 50 days, UNICEF staff in the field reported. Mr. Boulierac highlighted the vital importance of the resumption of classes in the healing process, in order to help children regain a sense of security, normalcy and stability in a safe and familiar environment.
UNICEF's team on the ground would be focusing on different areas: they would provide coordination to ensure that the 50,000 children displaced by the fighting, or whose school had suffered heavy damage, were able to join a school in their neighbourhood. They had also carried out immediate repairs and cleaning on schools that had been used to shelter families displaced during the conflict. About 100 UNRWA schools and one public school had been used as shelters during the bombing. UNICEF was also planning to rebuild 48 schools in 2014 and 60 schools in 2015. In total, 108 out of 132 government-run schools would be repaired, depending on the funding provided to UNICEF's Back to School campaign.
UNICEF was also planning the organization of a week of special recreational sessions for all schools, designed to allow trained staff to identify children who had been more seriously traumatized by the conflict and then refer them for specialized support. The psychological trauma the children had suffered should not be underestimated. Going back to schools was very important for them, as it helped them focus back on normalcy.
UNICEF would provide in total 130,000 children with school bags, and 230,000 children with school stationery, teaching aids, and also school uniforms and shoes to assist priority families who were vulnerable.
That campaign was budgeted at USD 16 million for 2014.
Mr. Boulierac recalled that 30 million children were deprived of school in emergency areas around the world, due to humanitarian crises and conflicts. That number represented half of the 60 million children who could not attend schools globally.
Answering a question on the precise number of children going back to schools, Mr. Boulierac said the return to class concerned 470,000 children and 55,000 small children going to the kindergarten, which meant 525,000 children in total. UNICEF would help the local authorities in the opening of 395 schools within the coming weeks. UNICEF support would directly help 60,000 children.
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that there were still more than 63,000 internally displaced people staying in 29 UNRWA schools in Gaza as a result of the 50-days crisis, but the numbers were fluid. An estimated 50,000 other displaced people were living with host families.
Humanitarian partners on the ground reported that in response to that displacement, more funds were urgently needed to finance a comprehensive support package which would include support to host families, rental subsidies, assistance to repair minor damages and vouchers to purchase non-food items.
90 per cent of health facilities in Gaza were operational again, although some with limited services due to damage. However, challenges remained due to shortages of electricity, essential medicines and medical supplies.
An updated Gaza Crisis Appeal, addressing the most urgent needs on the ground, was expected to be presented later today in Ramallah. The current crisis appeal requested USD 367 million and was about 50 percent funded. A press release about the revision was expected later in the day.