GAZA CITY, October 19, 2004 -- UNICEF today began distribution of more than 40,000 school bags to children in the Gaza Strip, starting with schools damaged by the recent military incursions into the North.
The distribution, which will be completed by the end of the week and is being coordinated closely with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), underlines UNICEF's commitment to help maintain the education system even in the most difficult of circumstances.
"The school bags are a token of support that give a sense of normalcy in the lives of children, a sense of no matter the circumstance, education must continue" said Dan Rohrmann, the UNICEF Special Representative for the occupied Palestinian territory. "Children's right to education must be upheld."
The distribution of the bright blue school bags is timed to coincide with the resumption of classes at the end of a 2 week disruption - and with the cessation of military activity in the Northern Gaza Strip.
The first phase of the distribution will focus on students in Grades One and Two in the most affected areas - namely North Gaza and Rafah. The first recipients included children at damaged schools, including some 500 young children from the destroyed Rawdet Tal Zaatar Kindergarten in Jabalya. UNICEF will also bring bags to school children in the closed town of al-Mawasi - an area whose population suffer from extreme isolation for the rest from Gaza.
Aside from providing school bags, UNICEF is helping children stay on track with their studies during the conflict by providing psychosocial counseling as well as remedial education worksheets.
Even before the end of the 2 week military offensive - which left about 34 children dead and at least 170 injured - UNICEF delivered emergency aid in the form of water kits, emergency health kits, children's clothes and shoes and other school supplies. In a campaign aimed primarily at children, UNICEF booked air time on local TV stations for unexploded ordnance awareness spots.
"We hope all of these efforts will show the importance of investing in children. We must protect and care for one of the important assets we have - namely children" said Rohrmann.
UNICEF - the world's most influential advocate for children in the world - has been working to improve the situation of children and women in oPt since the early 1980s. Go to: www.unicef.org
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