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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
12 April 2006


UNICEF Humanitarian Action
Occupied Palestinian Territory
Donor Update

12 APRIL 2006


UNICEF REQUIRES US$ 9,321,936 FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION IN HEALTH, EDUCATION, PROTECTION AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT.

• Deterioration in the humanitarian situation and ongoing conflict is undermining the future of Palestinian children
• Child survival and health of newborns of increasing concern
• Nutritional status precarious, particularly in Gaza
• Access to education is challenged by restrictions of movement.
• A high prevalence of violence in homes, schools and neighborhoods continues to adversely affect children.
• Outbreaks of avian flu in Gaza pose new threats to household nutritional status and economic security.




1. ISSUES FOR CHILDREN

OCHA has warned that the financial crisis faced by the Palestinian Authority, combined with reduced support for development, will have dramatic humanitarian consequences.

Any further deterioration in the socio-economic fabric of Palestinian life will have a major impact on the 1.9 million children living in Gaza and the West Bank. Tighter restrictions on access and movements as well as rising insecurity will limit availability health and education services. Opportunities for recreation and interaction with peers will similarly be curtailed. The poor, marginalized and excluded will clearly be most affected.

Ongoing shelling, air strikes and sonic booms in Gaza and increased military action in the West Bank frame the context of daily life. Children in Northern Gaza make their way to school every day under constant threat of violence, and there is increased exposure to UXOs. At end-March, 11 Palestinian and one Israeli child had been killed due to the conflict since the beginning of the year. Some 351 children were being held in Israeli detention centres, including 5 girls.

Outbreaks of avian flu in Gaza pose serious risks to the economy and public health, directly impacting on children. Globally, children already face an elevated risk of infection, possibly due to the fact that they frequently take care of domestic animals. Measures to curb and prevent the spread of the disease must thus include special attention for children. Given that some 80% of protein intake in Gaza is derived from chicken, it is critical to quickly find alternative sources of protein for consumption. Compensation efforts must target the children and families who are already most vulnerable.

Health and Nutrition
In Gaza, infant and child death rates continue to rise, mainly because of to an increase in deaths among newborns. This is due largely to a lack of basic equipment for maternal and newborn care along with poor care for newborns in health facilities. Disruptions in water and sanitation systems have contributed to a surge in intra-hospital infections.

Chronic malnutrition (stunting) in children below five years of age has reached almost 10%, with children in the Gaza Strip most affected. Some 350,000 children are stunted, with the burden falling most heavily on 1-2 year-olds. More than 15% are malnourished at this critical age in their overall development. Around 8% of children have low birth weight, contributing to higher mortality and morbidity rates.

To prevent vaccine–preventable diseases and deaths among very young children, there is a need for mop-up immunization against polio, as well as action to ensure the availability of all major vaccines including tetravalent DPT-HiB.

A number of essential medical supplies, including basics such as aspirin as well as medication for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, are reaching zero levels.

Education
Access to education continues to be challenged by restrictions to movement, particularly in the West Bank. In March 2006, for example, 13 schools in the district of Nablus alone were shut down because of a military incursion that kept more than 5,000 students out of school for a week.

Education quality is also showing signs of decline, and learning achievements for students are deteriorating in worst-affected areas.

Few children have child-friendly learning environments and opportunities for sports and recreation. Many lack educational materials and schools lack quality teaching aids. Restrictions to movement also affect the delivery of supplies and training, including on the use of remedial worksheets.

Adolescents
Adolescents comprise a volatile and vulnerable segment of Palestinian society. At least 500,000 children and adolescents in the West Bank and Gaza lack opportunities for play, recreation, or extra-curricular activities in areas that are safe for them. There are around 300 youth clubs in the West Bank and Gaza, but most lack funding, and are poorly managed and equipped. Programs offered by these youth clubs are usually limited to simple sporting activities. Most adolescents spend most of their time at home.

The cumulative effect of lost school days (due to closures, curfews and other restrictions to movement) has meant that some adolescents lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. Some adolescents who are two or three levels below their normal grade end up dropping out of school and joining the unskilled labour market. Most adolescents have little access to information (or IT) and life skills education to help them adopt healthy life styles.

Child protection and psychosocial well-being
High prevalence of violence in homes, schools and neighbourhoods continues to adversely affect children. One-fifth of the children have experienced violence perpetrated by family members. Burdened with daily pressures including economic hardship, unemployment and impaired access to services and support networks, adults are faced with a continuous erosion of their capacity to manage their children’s distress in addition to their own. Reinforcing the protective environment for children will require strengthening crisis intervention, family outreach support and case management capacities.

There is increased exposure to UXOs in Northern Gaza.

2. ACTION FOR CHILDREN

UNICEF’s humanitarian action is based on our core commitments for children and focuses on child survival, nutrition, and ensuring that children are able to continue learning. Psychosocial support for children and families living in stressful conditions, and the creation of safe spaces for children and young people, are key areas of work.

Health and Nutrition
UNICEF is providing vaccine and vaccine-related supplies, cold chain training and logistic support for routine and emergency immunization for the nine major vaccine-preventable diseases through 413 MoH primary health clinics and 53 UNRWA centres. Through the Ministry of Health, UNRWA and NGOs, routine immunization services cover half a million children below age 5, as well as 100,000 girls in schools. All vaccines for 2006 have been procured and existing stocks will ensure that services are covered until June 2006, when the stocks will be need to be replenished. In addition to routine services, an immunization campaign for measles, mumps and rubella is due in Gaza for 560,000 children, along with a mop-up campaign to sustain polio-free status covering about 90,000 children in West Bank and Gaza. In difficult to reach areas, UNICEF is supporting mobile teams as well as facilitation of coordination with Israeli authorities and Israel Defense Forces.

To ensure adequate emergency and child health care, 150 maternal and child clinics are being upgraded with medical equipment and supplies. Six of these clinics, located in former enclaves in Gaza and the West Bank, were completely equipped. Fifty clinics are receiving equipment for health education and awareness-raising, including training for doctors, nurses and community health workers in emergency maternal and child care.

The increase in intra-hospital infections will be addressed by equipping health facilities with infection prevention materials (filters, antiseptics, sterilization kits) and providing orientation for health staff in infection prevention practices. A quick assessment of the needs of newborn and maternity units is under preparation with a view to upgrading the most urgently needed equipment and supplies.

Malnutrition and anemia will be addressed through growth monitoring and micronutrient supplements, and mobile clinics and outreach services will reach children in marginalized and isolated communities.

UNICEF is actively involved in the avian flu response. Together with UNFPA, UNICEF is supporting awareness and social mobilization activities. Specifically, 300,000 posters have been developed and are being distributed through public information and health education sessions in clinics and public fora. In partnership with Palestine Telecommunications Company and the Jerusalem Electricity Company, basic prevention information is being printed on the backs of monthly phone and electricity bills. UNICEF is also supporting orientation and awareness sessions covering 3000 health professionals in the West Bank. Given the urgent needs expressed by the Palestinian Authority, UNICEF provided 900 courses of Tamiflu. UNICEF is seeking funds to procure additional Tamiflu drugs for children.

Education
Humanitarian interventions for education focus on providing schools in crisis-affected areas with equipment and supplies to facilitate teaching and learning, including supplementary reading materials. Ten schools in the former enclaves of As-Siafa, Al- Mawasi, Abu Nahia and Abu al Ajin have started to receive a comprehensive education package that includes teacher training on curriculum, evaluation, and remedial education, in addition to sports equipment, computers, school-in-a-box kits, science lab equipment, and library furniture and books.

Extra-curricular school activities are being implemented to help normalize children’s lives. Remedial education, which enables children to keep learning, or to catch up with their studies despite constraints to their movement, is a key element. Students are provided with worksheets in Math, Arabic, Science and English, and parents and other family members receive training on how to help them complete the sheets.

Teacher training is conducted on methodologies and approaches to meet the learning needs of children in emergency contexts. Social advocacy to mobilize communities, parents and religious leaders to support school education under emergency situations and prevent drop outs is another important education component.

Adolescents
To empower adolescents and engage them in learning activities outside of school, adolescentfriendly learning spaces have been established in connection with youth clubs. Local management committees are formed to oversee these safe play areas. Together with animator/facilitators, the management committees receive training on child rights, and in how to implement activities ranging from literacy programmes to sports, music and drama. Bi-weekly activities for children are held in these spaces. Relevant sporting and other supplies are provided. Teachers are trained on a literacy intervention program and youth clubs are provided with a library and a computer center to promote literacy. Mapping of youth clubs and safe play areas is underway using a set of criteria that will support the goal of reaching a larger proportion of the most underprivileged adolescents.

Child protection and psychosocial support
Twelve psychosocial emergency teams are operating in oPt: seven in the West Bank and five in Gaza, covering 12 out of 15 districts. Children and adolescents participate in activities aimed at reinforcing their capacity to protect themselves and to cope with violence. In parallel, caregivers are equipped with skills on how to support their children in distress and how to promote a harmonious family environment, as well as on how to deal with their own stress. Home visits are carried out in the aftermath of violent family disputes in Gaza. Events for children are organized in the communities in order to reinforce the messages of the sessions and to encourage discussion between children and their parents. While the emergency response capacity of the teams will be maintained over the next six months, a legal support component will be added, further operationalising a transition towards the broader socio-legal protection of children and adolescents against violence in all its forms.

3. 2006 APPEAL REQUIREMENTS AND SUPPORT

UNICEF’s CAP was originally budgeted at US$ 8.4 million. Additional immediate needs over and above the original CAP amount to US$ 4,560,000 for a total CAP requirement of some US$ 13 million. The breakdown is as follows:






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