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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
29 December 2010

In Brief

On 2 December, in commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UNICEF and the Popular Arts Centre carried out a dance performance in Jenin Refugee camp targeting 400 children.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS), UNICEF and partners held a national campaign, entitled ‘towards a safe learning environment’. Over 15,000 adolescents participated with various recreational and educational activities across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

This monthly update highlights the overall situation of children; provides a brief on policy development and delivery for children.

Overview: Situation of Children

In 2010, there has been some progress towards achieving children's rights, however, 1.9 million children across the oPt continue to suffer from the impact of occupation and intra-Palestinian division.

While the number of child deaths according to the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism, has dropped drastically in 2010, from over 300 children killed in 2009 down to 10 children killed in 2010, children continue to face threats of poverty, low learning achievement, and continued movement restrictions.

In 2010, and according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), almost 22 per cent of Palestinians are living below the poverty line across oPt (15.5 per cent in West Bank and 33.2 per cent in Gaza). The number of families living in deep poverty stands at 12 per cent (7.5 per cent in West Bank and 20 per cent in Gaza), subjecting 430,000 children to vulnerabilities of poverty. According to the National Insurance Institute of Israel, poverty rate among Palestinians in East Jerusalem has increased from 59 per cent in 2008 to 71.2 in 2009, which calls for urgent action.

Learning achievements also show signs of deterioration for almost 1.2 million students enrolled in schools across oPt. In the West Bank, during the second semester of 2010, almost 67 per cent and only 43 per cent of fourth grade students passed their Arabic and mathematics exams respectively, while in Gaza, during the same semester, only 59 per cent and 47 per cent of fourth grade students passed their Arabic and mathematics exams respectively.

UNICEF works with a wide range of partners, including the Palestinian Authority (PA), NGOs and UN agencies, to mitigate the impact of the occupation and intra-Palestinian division on children, and to prevent further deterioration in their well being.

In oPt, UNICEF works to improve quality of early childhood care and development services and primary education; advance access to and quality of health and nutrition services; upgrade water and sanitation services for most vulnerable children and families; build a protective environment for children and provide adolescents with opportunities for constructive participation towards nation building.

Evidence and Policy Development

The data collection of the PCBS, UNFPA and UNICEF Palestinian Family survey (PFS), using the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) methodology, has been finalised. The survey results, which are expected to be completed by end January 2011, will show trends in child, adolescent and women well-being since the third MICS in 2006 and will provide baseline data on children and women that supports national planning and guides the 2011-2013 programme for children and women.

To improve quality of child nutrition services, and in partnership with the US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF supported the Ministry of Health (MoH) to undertake an assessment of its national nutrition surveillance system, which will strengthen the administrative data of the ministry.

UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) in carrying out a survey on early childhood care and development (ECD) in Gaza that guides the planned ECD policy framework. The ECD survey results showed that learning environment is poor within kindergartens, with high student-teacher ratio; minimum use of interactive learning approaches; limited training opportunities; and insufficient WASH facilities.

In Partnership with A.M. Qattan Foundation, UNICEF supported a qualitative study to analyse the causes of low achievement among students, and the outcome of the study will be utilised to guide programming in lowest performing schools. The study covered six schools in Ramallah and Hebron districts.

In partnership with Columbia University, UNICEF supported a first of its kind inter-agency evaluation of psychosocial interventions, involving more than 35 institutions. The evaluation served to build an evidence base for effective psychosocial programming in oPts complex environment.

A knowledge, attitude, practices and behaviours (KAPB) on healthy lifestyle including smoking, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS was carried out. The KAPB survey will guide in planning initiatives in support of positive behavioural change.

At the policy level, UNICEF supported the development of a national child protection strategy and action plan; the piloting of the non-violence school policy; and the harmonisation of an in-school referral protocol.

In partnership with UNFPA and UNDP, UNICEF supported the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) in developing a national youth strategy to improve the quality of programmes and services targeting adolescents and youth, and enhances their positive participation in their communities.

To improve national water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) management, UNICEF supported the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) in finalising a water quality surveillance plan. To guide policy development, UNICEF also supported the Coastal Municipal Water Utility (CMWU) and PWA databases.

In partnership with a coalition of 11 Israeli, Palestinian and international organisations, UNICEF supported the development of a 1612 database. The database provides updated information on killing/maiming; recruitment or use of child soldiers; attacks against schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian access; on arrest and detention; ill-treatment and torture; displacement, sexual violence and abduction, which enabled the group to submit six bi-monthly advocacy reports - "Global Horizontal Note, on grave violations against children to the UN Secretary General Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict (UNSG SRCAAC).

Institutional Building

In support of national institutional building that is in line with the PA's 13th Government programme, UNICEF supported MoH in training 90 health professionals on "integrated management of childhood illnesses, which is a comprehensive childs health and nutrition package; built the capacity of 160 health workers on exclusive breastfeeding counselling; and trained 60 health workers on the maternal and child nutrition protocol.

In partnership with MoEHE, and in trying to improve learning outcomes, UNICEF built the capacity of more than 750 caregivers and 30 principals and supervisors on ECD in support of the ECD policy framework and supported training of 2,000 mathematics and science teachers on the use of mathematics and science kits in support of the national teacher education strategy. UNICEF supported training of 120 teachers and 190 principals on "child-friendly school principles.

To promote hygiene practices and safe water handling, UNICEF trained more than 16,000 students and 500 teachers on hygiene practices, and carried out awareness raising campaigns on the importance of safe water handling.

As part of the ongoing work in mental health and psychosocial support, UNICEF convened several workshops to build the capacity of its partners in monitoring and evaluation (M&E), to further develop the M&E tools that are in accordance with the outcome of the interagency psychosocial evaluation.

In partnership with Al Mezan institute and MoEHE, UNICEF trained 70 religious leaders and more than 950 adolescents and peer educators on HIV prevention and healthy lifestyle, and held advocacy workshops targeting more than 1,250 parents.

UNICEF and the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection (PFPPA) carried out training of trainers for 61 MoEHE and UNRWA teachers, and held three advocacy workshops on HIV prevention and stigma reduction targeting youth leaders.

In partnership with Maan Development Centre, Tamer, Al Nayzak for Extracurricular Activities, the National Committee on Summer Camps and MoYS, UNICEF supported a national campaign that kicked off the International Year of Youth, with the participation of more than 25,000 adolescents, and supported adolescent-led initiatives, including research and campaigns.

Reaching Vulnerable Children and Women

UNICEF targeted 100 lowest performing schools by providing more than 21,000 students with remedial classes in Arabic and mathematics, which resulted in a 10 per cent improvement in test results of Gaza students. During the summer, UNICEF supported "learning through enjoyment initiative by providing up to 78 hours of remedial classes in Arabic and mathematics, along with 48 hours of sports and recreational activities, for 22,500 students across oPt.

To increase water availability, UNICEF supported the rehabilitation of water and sewage networks, including the installation of a pump, benefiting 4,870 families and rehabilitated, and/or constructed WASH facilities in 74 schools (42 in West Bank and 32 in Gaza), targeting more than 40,000 students.

In Gaza and in partnership with Save the Children Sweden and local community based organisations, UNICEF supports 20 family centres, which provide a broad spectrum of activities for children and their caregivers who can come together for psychosocial care. On a monthly basis, an average of 360 children and 180 caregivers benefitted from the services of each family centre.

To reinforce a protective environment for children, and in response to violations against children, the 16 UNICEF-supported psychosocial teams (11 in West Bank and five in Gaza) provide ongoing psychosocial support to children and their caregivers, through group, individual or peer to peer counselling; emergency assistance and non-formal education. Since the beginning of the year, 27,000 children and 20,000 caregivers participated in sessions that aimed at strengthening their coping mechanisms.

To help meet a severe gap in quality after-school learning and recreational programmes for adolescents, UNICEF supported 100 adolescent-friendly spaces (AFS) (60 in West Bank, 40 in Gaza) with educational and recreational activities reaching more than 65,000 adolescents. The AFS provide adolescents at risk of dropping out of school with support in keeping up; and equips them with critical life skills such conflict resolution, communication skills; and activities such as arts, music, and sports.

UNICEF-supported cluster leadership in the WASH and education sectors coordinating over 60 organisation and also leads the Child Protection and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support sub-sectors, coordinating over 70 members.

As part of the WASH Cluster, UNICEF carried out three-day training on coordinating humanitarian action, and WASH monitoring and evaluation targeting 60 porfessionals. In Partnership with Gruppo Volontariato Civile, UNICEF carried out a mapping exercise of WASH vulnerability in the Jordan valley. The results of the mapping exercise, along with other studies were used in the WASH cluster assessment of water availability, quality, and affordability including sanitation facilities.

Together with the agricultural section, the WASH Cluster carried out a water scarcity workshop to develop a water scarcity response plan.

Supplies included the provision of 18 incubators to MoH neonatal units; the procurement of vaccines and vaccine related supplies in support of the MoH vaccination week reaching more than 16,000 children; the delivery of laboratory kits for diagnosis and monitoring of preventable diseases; the provision of ECD kits to 50 kindergartens; and printing of 60,000 child health files for record keeping.

UNICEF expresses deep gratitude and appreciation to the donor community, whose funding enabled us to fulfil our duties and obligations to children in advancing their rights. Sincere appreciation goes to our partners in Government, NGOs, INGOS, civil society organisations, and UN agencies, whose commitment, inspiration and dedication, enabled us to make a difference in children’s lives.

FEATURE: Clinic Brings Care to Those in Need

Hableh, West Bank, 17 December 2010 — The Hableh Government clinic is humming with activity. Today the clinic's paediatrician is immunizing children, and the benches are lined with women holding children in one hand and a "Mother and Child Handbook — a child's health, including an immunisation tracking booklet, in the other.

Nurse Aisheh Odeh moves from room to room, choreographing general, prenatal and paediatric care provided to some 75 patients daily. “I studied to be a midwife because I felt that women were not getting the care they needed in the intifada,” she explains. “Many women were giving birth at military checkpoints and at home.”

Here at the clinic, mothers bring their children to the Ministry of Health free immunisation programme supported by UNICEF and funded by the Japanese Government.

“Since the Palestinian Authority was established in 1994, UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Health for the provision of vaccines, cold chain equipment,” says Douglas G. Higgins, Deputy Special Representative for UNICEF-oPt.

Across oPt, the Government of Japan has been influential in supporting the mother and child health in general, and the immunisation programme in specific.

“First of all, our priority in the health sector in Palestine is child and mother health care because we believe that a secure life is the basis for society,” says

Naofumi Hashimoto, Head of the Japanese Representative office to the Palestinian Authority.

Immunisation – A Success Story

Starting in 2009, the Ministry of Health, for the first time since the current uprising in 2000, covered the cost of vaccines for all its children from its national budget. However, UNICEF continued to provide procurement support services to the Ministry that includes logistics; clearance; storage and delivery of vaccines and vaccine related supplies.

“The immunisation programme has been a particularly strong success story within the Palestinian territory, with immunization coverage beyond 95 per cent, which is higher than any other neighbouring countries in the Middle East and North Africa,” added Higgins.

The Ministry of Health Public Health Department is highly committed to continuously improving the immunisation services for all refugee and non-refugee children across oPt. They have used all communication channels in order to reach the unreached and to sustain the high immunisation coverage.

"For most vulnerable groups of children in hard to reach areas, we use mobile clinics to reach these communities as well as traditional channels of communication, which proved to be successful. We use mosques to call upon mothers to bring their children to the clinic for immunisation, said Dr. Asad Ramlawi, Director General, Ministry of Health.

Access to Care

In 2010, Hableh clinic oversaw 172 pregnancies, 32 of them high risk. A small laboratory does basic tests for patients, and some medicines are dispensed by the clinic. Two nurses and a general practitioner serve patients here daily, while a paediatrician and dermatologist see patients certain days of the week.

The clinic serves not only the residents of Hableh, but the surrounding villages, all of which — like the city of Qalqilya — are affected by the Barrier that Israel has constructed in the West Bank.

Subhiya Hassan, a resident of a nearby village of Ras Atiya, is thrilled by the services provided by Hableh clinic. While cradling her two-month-old son, Hassan, preparing him to receive his vaccinations, she says "they are excellent. Subhiya, a mother of five children says the twice-weekly clinic in her own village of Ras Attiyeh is insufficient.

“The doctor comes for two hours twice a week,” she says. “If a baby gets ill during the week then we have to come to Hableh. This is a big problem for us.”

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