In 2010, while there was some progress towards achieving children’s rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), 1.9 million Palestinian children continued to suffer from the impact of occupation, the failure of the peace process, and intra-Palestinian divisions. The number of child deaths dropped drastically in 2010, from over 300 children killed in 2009 (year of “Cast Lead”) down to 11 children killed in 2010. However Palestinian children continue to face threats of killing, injury, poverty, displacement, detention, psychological distress and low learning achievement.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), almost 22 per cent of Palestinians were living below the poverty line in 2009 (15.5 per cent in the West Bank and 33.2 per cent in Gaza). The number of families living in deep poverty stood at 12 per cent (7.5 per cent in the West Bank and 20 per cent in Gaza), subjecting 430,000 children to vulnerabilities of poverty. In East Jerusalem, the poverty rate increased from 59 per cent in 2008 to 71.2 in 2009. Life as a child is especially difficult in the Old City, where poverty, school dropout and substance abuse direly impact on youngsters.
Since 2006, the health and nutrition situation of children has improved. In 2010, infant mortality rate dropped from 27.6 per 1,000 live births in 2006 to 20.6 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality rate dropped from 31.6 per 1,000 live births to 25.1 per 1,000 live births. Gaza had the highest infant and under-five mortality rates standing at 23 and 29.2 per 1,000 live births respectively.
In 2010, 11 out of 100 under-five children suffered from chronic malnutrition (11.3 per cent in the West Bank and 9.9 per cent in Gaza). Hebron Governorate had the highest rate of chronic malnutrition among under-five children, standing at 9.61 per cent. Underweight among under-five children stands at 3.7 per cent (3.8 per cent in the West Bank and 3.5 per cent in Gaza), with the highest rates again in Hebron Governorate standing at 5.6 per cent.
The blockade on Gaza and the movement restrictions in the West Bank continue to jeopardize the livelihood f families and their access to basic services. Despite a limited easing of restrictions on entry of goods and supplies into Gaza since June 2010, the blockade is still in place and the minimal improvements have not resulted in real change. More fundamental measures are needed to initiate Gaza’s long-term recovery, in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1860.
Two years after Operation Cast Lead, 82 per cent of the damage to Gaza schools has still not been repaired due to lack of reconstruction materials. This compounds the already stressed education system, where the vast majority of schools have been teaching on a double-shift system. Gaza’s health care system is also suffering and is unable to provide adequate services to meet the needs of the population. As a result, patients must seek treatment outside of Gaza for a wide range of medical assistance. According to WHO, between January and November 2010, 3,546 out of 3,851 applications for children who sought to obtain medical assistance outside of Gaza were approved; however, 294 applications were delayed and 11 applications were denied. Four children, all under the age of three years, died while waiting for the appropriate permits to travel outside of Gaza in 2010.
West Bank, including East Jerusalem
In the West Bank, more than 500 obstacles to movement, including the “Barrier” and checkpoints, hinder children’s access to basic services. Documentation from 2010 indicates an increasing number of incidents in which students were hampered from accessing their schools and learning was disrupted, or where the safety of students was compromised. Last year, there were 24 documented attacks on schools by settlers, Israeli security forces and unknown armed Palestinian groups, which placed children’s safety at risk and resulted in damage to schools or other types of interruptions in education.
Children also continue to face threats of displacement as a result of house demolition, eviction and/or stop-work orders in the West Bank. In 2010, more than 425 Palestinian structures were demolished in Area „C” and East Jerusalem, including 133 residential structures, leaving at least 594 people, including 299 children, homeless. More than 2,500 others were affected in other ways, including loss of livelihood due to the demolitions. Forced displacement and seizure of properties affect the lives and well-being of hundreds of families every year.
UNICEF oPt’s programme for 2011 focuses on nutrition, health, water and sanitation; education and adolescents development and participation; child protection; and research, policy and advocacy. In line with UNICEF’s equity-focused approach, the programme will target the most marginalised groups of Palestinian children and families.
In 2011, UNICEF will increasingly support capacity development through the development of systems and policies contributing to state building. The health programme will work with the Ministry of Health (MoH) to scale up the ‘Integrated Management of Child Illnesses” (IMCI) strategy, a comprehensive approach to prevent and manage childhood illnesses at both community and primary health care levels.
Through the nutrition programme, behavioural change capacity building efforts will be geared to initiate the „Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative’ (BFHI) within four health facilities in the West Bank and Gaza that will become centres of breast-feeding support.
In partnership with the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), UNICEF will support the finalisation of the Water Law and Plan, and will further develop the PWA database and information management system. UNICEF will also support the upgrading of the PWA water laboratory to improve monitoring and surveillance of water quality, and will work with the Coastal Municipal Water Utilities (CMWU) to upgrade geographic information systems in Gaza.
The education programme will work with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) to develop national standards and a policy framework on early childhood development (ECD). These standards will be initiated Through the Adolescents Development and Participation programme, UNICEF will work with the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS) and partners to develop minimum standards for “Adolescent Friendly Centres” (AFC) in order to support adolescents” development and participation towards nation building. The centres provide youngsters with remedial education, sport activities and counselling on substance abuse and life skills.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) and a wide range of partners, the child protection programme will work towards the endorsement and implementation of the amended Child Law to help strengthen a protective environment for children. UNICEF will finalise the consolidated Juvenile Justice Law; and will develop protocols and carry out training targeting the seven family protection units within the civil police to empower them to provide legal and protection services to children and women who are subjected to abuse. UNICEF will also roll-out the non-violence school policy at a national level in 100 ECD centres across oPt, helping ensure that Palestinian children survive, have the best start in life and thrive.
Grave Violations against Israeli and Palestinian Children
UNICEF and its partners will continue to report on, analyze and document violations committed against Israeli and Palestinian children in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) by Palestinian armed groups, Israeli security forces and settlers. The violations monitored include killing and injuries, arrest and detention, ill-treatment and torture, recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, attacks on schools and hospitals, displacement, and denial of humanitarian access including access to health and education. The bi-monthly Bulletin on Children and Armed Conflict, which was launched last September, will be distributed to a wider audience of donors, stakeholders and journalists to raise awareness on grave violations against children in Israel and the oPt, and help engage positively across the political spectrum in order to put an end to these violations.
Analysing the Environment
UNICEF and its partners will carry out a number of studies to help analyse the environment in which children evolve across oPt, and plan an efficient response.
In partnership with MoH, UNICEF will carry out a survey on combined micronutrients and anaemia causality. Its findings will guide the review of policies and guidelines addressing micronutrients deficiencies for children and women of childbearing age. With MoEHE, UNICEF will carry out a knowledge, attitude, practices and behaviour (KAPB) study on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in schools, which will be used to guide improvements to WASH facilities in schools. Another study will focus on schools in Area „C” and East Jerusalem. A vulnerability study will focus on adolescents.
The child protection programme will release two studies on Palestinian children in detention. Both studies will assess the compliance of those systems with key international standards.
In partnership with PCBS and UNFPA, the evidence, policy and advocacy programme will finalise the Palestinian Family Household survey. It will also assess the impact of social protection cash transfer programmes on children, and produce a situation analysis on children and women across oPt.
Reaching the Most Vulnerable Children
In line with UNICEF’s equity-focused approach, which calls for focusing investments on the most disadvantaged children and their families, UNICEF will support the MoH in reaching the most vulnerable groups of children during the regional immunisation week as well as the community integrated management of childhood illnesses to improve child health. UNICEF will also work with partners to rehabilitate water networks in the most marginalised areas of the West Bank, and to support the installation of desalination units in Gaza to provide vulnerable children and their families with safe drinking water. UNICEF will also build water and sanitation facilities targeting 44,000 students attending 55 schools (30 schools in Gaza and 25 schools in West Bank). To improve sanitary conditions in Rafah, UNICEF will rehabilitate its sewage network, which will help minimise water pollution.
The learning for development programme will support MoEHE in providing remedial education to students in the 100 lowest performing schools. As poor exam results and falling enrolment rates point to an emerging deterioration of education in oPt over the past years, UNICEF will help vulnerable students improve their learning achievements. The programme will also provide quality humanitarian support to Area “C” schools that were assessed as sub-standard and are in need of swift humanitarian support.
The child protection programme and its partners will provide vulnerable children and their caregivers with quality child protection services and psychosocial counselling in a timely manner.
FEATURE: UNICEF Promotes Healthy Lifestyles in Gaza
Gaza, 13 April 2010 — When 16-year-old Yasmine Sufi told her mother what she was learning at an after-school programme, she says her mother was surprised.
““Why do you have to learn this?”, she asked me,” says Sufi. “But when I explained, she understood.”
Sufi was learning about preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the conservative society of Gaza.
Last year, UNICEF and its partners trained more than 140 peer educators in HIV/AIDS prevention, communication skills and promoting a healthy lifestyle, including prevention of substance abuse. They, in turn, will work with their peers to help disseminate what they learnt.
“We wrote a story about this illness, how it is spread, and will explain it to the other kids,” says Sufi. “There are ways that it is spread — through sexual contact — that are hard to talk about,” but Sufi says that she is learning not to be shy.
PREVENTION THROUGH EDUCATION
Trainers are being educated in preventive programmes on HIV/AIDS, drugs and alcohol, says Mahmoud Abu Nimeh, a coordinator for UNICEF’s partner Ma’an Development Centre.
“We tell them that we don„t have a lot of cases [in the occupied Palestinian territory], but we are trying to keep it that way,” says Abu Nimeh.
“As children get older, awareness on HIV prevention is spread by young people to their families and throughout the Palestinian society.”
There are no reliable statistics on the number of Palestinians infected with HIV.
“We learned that this disease causes millions of deaths per year,” says 15-year-old Ibrahim Deeb. „Now, I am confident that I have acquired the essential skills for HIV prevention” adds Deeb.
UNICEF and its partners work closely with teachers and religious leaders to help them implement healthy lifestyles programmes.
Awareness-raising sessions were conducted for some 950 students attending government schools and UNICEF-supported adolescent-friendly spaces. Forty two advocacy workshops were held with nearly 2,000 religious figures, youth leaders, parents and officials. The programme is funded by the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
“HIV/AIDS may not be widely present in our society,” says Sheikh Muhammed al-Attal. “But by raising these issues, we prevent the spread of the disease”.
“By training young people with the right information from informed sources — teachers and trainers — we ensure that they don’t get the wrong information from television or the internet,” says the religious leader.
He says that UNICEF should expand its programming to continue training several hundred women and children a year in HIV/AIDS awareness.
“We, too, have benefited from these programmes,” he says, “and we now present these ideas in our sermons [at Friday prayers].”