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Source: UN Children's Fund (UNICEF)
19 November 2003

Humanitarian Action
Occupied Palestinian Territory
- Donor Update 19 Nov 2003

  • Estimated 2.4 million people affected, including 1,200,000 children and 650,000 women
  • Children cannot attend schools for extended periods of time due to closures, curfews and insecurity
  • Some 50 per cent of all children are psychosocially affected by the ongoing violence
  • Poverty increasing substantially: 60% of Palestinians now live on less than $2/day
  • UNICEF urgently requires $9 million to cover the 2003 Humanitarian Appeal


    Violence and mobility restrictions persist

    Since the outbreak of increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians in September 2000, the decline in the rights and livelihoods of Palestinian children has been rapid and profound. This is directly linked to the violence and mobility restrictions children experience daily, including the death and injury to their person and that of their family and friends, damage to their property including the demolition of their homes, and the frustration and poverty they sustain.

    463 Palestinian and 93 Israeli children have been killed in the current conflict. Over 9,000 Palestinian children have been injured. The Israeli military has damaged or destroyed hundreds of Palestinian homes since September 28, 2002, displacing more than 10,000.

    The situation has been characterized by unprecedented levels of violence and by the most severe, sustained mobility restrictions imposed on the West Bank and Gaza since 1997. Israeli military-imposed closure and curfews along with border closures and other mobility restrictions have had severe impact on the Palestinian economy. The decline in economic activity has been accelerating further in recent months, and prospects for any short-term economic recovery are now grim. Up to 40 percent of the Gaza Strip cannot be used by Palestinians, resulting in a population density of 5,500 people per km2.

    Increased poverty

    The number of people living below the poverty line has tripled from 637,000 in September 2000 to nearly 2 million today. Unemployment has increased dramatically from 10 percent in September 2000 to over 50 percent in March 2003. According to World Bank estimates, 60 percent of the population in the West Bank and Gaza live under a poverty line of US$2 per day, bearing dramatic consequences for the development of children.

    Psychosocial impact on children

    Families' lives, behavior and attitudes have changed dramatically since the onset of the current conflict and psychosocial symptoms of distress are common. Recent reports show that almost half (48%) of the children in OPT have personally witnessed violence within the ongoing conflict or an incident of such violence effecting an immediate family member. Children may not necessarily find appropriate support and refuge with their parents and teachers, who themselves are under significant stress. Approximately 75% of Palestinian adults report that children are experiencing greater emotional problems and behavioral change compared with a year ago. Behavior changes include sleeping problems, being afraid and finding it hard to concentrate (MOSA; 2003). It has also been reported that adolescents between 13-18 years of age are more vulnerable to aggression, rebellion, risk-taking behavior, helplessness, frustration and withdrawal (PCBS, Canaan; 2003).

    Children and adolescents are paying a heavy and disproportionate price for this conflict between adults - many with their lives. Traumatic events such as the death or injury of family and friends, house-to-house searches, and the humiliating round-up and detention of fathers and brothers lead to particularly acute psychological problems. The rights of Palestinian children to survival, protection, development and participation - all guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) - are being denied.


    As part of its regular Programme of Cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, UNICEF continues to respond to the evolving humanitarian needs of the affected children and women in the OPT. With the crisis entering its third year, UNICEF has increasingly focussed on improving the resilience of the existing structures in place and will continue to contribute to the adaptation of the governmental system to address the humanitarian needs.

    The construction of the walls inside the occupied areas has worsened the physical access of the Palestinian population to daily necessities such as school, shops and hospitals in the OPT. In order to reach those hard-to-reach population in the conflict-prone locations such as Tulkram, Jenin, Raffah and Hebron, UNICEF has has adopted the 'working behind the lines' approach since the second half of this year. Now a total of six zonal offices have been established in Jenin, Tulkram, Nablus, Hebron, Gaza and Raffah. Each office is equipped with an international zonal officer, a national project officer, as well as a vehicle and a driver. These offices have already begun their function to monitor, supervise project implementation and inform local situation and needs to the central office of UNICEF in Jerusalem. These zonal offices are now forming the operational base for all UNICEF decentralized programmes and allow a maximum security in the implementation rate, the monitoring reliability and increase the effectiveness of meeting the needs of women and children in areas most severely affected by the ongoing conflict.

    Health and Nutrition

    The health and nutrition status of the Palestinian children and women is of great concern to UNICEF. According to surveys conducted over the past months, 3.5 per cent of 6-59 month old children were underweight, 37.9 per cent of the same age group were anemic, and 9 per cent suffered from stunting (weight for height). According to World Bank estimates, real per capita food consumption has dropped by 30 per cent since September 2000. In addition, the lack of access to basic health services (vaccination, essential drugs, etc) and difficulty in obtaining food due to curfews, siege and closures continue to affect the general wellbeing of the Palestinian population, especially the most vulnerable children and women.

    With the funds available, UNICEF has implemented an Expanded Programme of Immunization to strengthen the National Immunization Programme. The programme has ensured uninterrupted provision of immunization to children and women in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and to safeguard the achievements of the national immunization programme undertaken by Ministry of Health (MoH) throughout 2003.

    Through the provision of immunization supplies to the MOH, UNICEF has met the national requirement for vaccines and injections for children under 15 years of age and women of the reproductive age, as well as non-routine immunization. The project has upgraded the cold-chain and logistics equipment (refrigerators/freezers, vaccine carriers, cold-boxes) and devices (temperature monitor equipment) as well as management information systems (MIS). Moreover, the capacity of 435 primary healthcare workers from all 15 districts in the OPT has been strengthened through training and upgrading of technical skills (effective immunization and safe injection practices). Some 600,000 children under five and 100,000 school children (boys and girls aged 6 and girls aged 13) have been reached through routine immunization and the immunization coverage rate is expected to exceed 90% with the 6 basic antigens.

    The nutrition project has helped decrease stunting and wasting among children under five, as well as decrease high anemia prevalence rates among children and women. Numerous media messages were disseminated to raise the awareness on breastfeeding, micro-nutrients supplementation and consumption of iodized salt, with an estimated 60% of the population reached. The project has also strengthened the growth monitoring and supported the establishment of a more efficient nutrition surveillance system within MOH and other primary healthcare providers through training of 340 medical and health management staff.


    Improving access to education for Palestinian children remains a major challenge in the OPT. Between September 2000 and April 2003, close to 500 schools were disrupted and closed due to curfews, sieges and closures. Some 270 schools buildings were damaged as a result of shelling and shooting in the same period. This persistent violence makes improving access to education a daunting task for UNICEF as well as its partners working in the sector.

    In close cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE), great efforts have been made to ensure that the majority of the Palestinian children attend school. UNICEF has focused on economically disadvantaged children through the provision of school uniforms, school bags and stationary items. TV and radio messages were developed and broadcast in local areas to strengthen the awareness, support and participation of the communities.

    In an effort to tackle erratic school attendance due to closures and mobility restrictions, UNICEF assisted education project has piloted a remedial education programme to compensate for the lost school days in the OPT. The programme is expected to reach up to 250,000 children over a duration of one year, focusing primarily on the districts most affected by the current crisis - Jenin, Tul Karem, Hebron and Nablus.


    Despite limited funding, UNICEF has been able to conduct communication/advocacy campaign for the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) with the relevant authorities, including those located in hard-to-reach areas such as Tulkrum and Jenin. In addition, field visits and one-to-one briefings were organized for media. The purpose of these initiatives has been to increase the awareness to help improve the social status of children and women in the OPT.


    UNICEF OPT would like very much to join its counterparts under the Palestine Authority to express their deep appreciation and gratitude for the generous contribution made by all the donors. The contribution has not only helped the children and women survive under emergency situation, but also laid down some corner stones for the long term socio-economic development, from which children and women can benefit in the long run.

    UNICEF, as part of the 2003 Consolidated Appeal for the OPT, requested US$ 16.2 million to provide humanitarian relief to the affected children and women in the territory. To date, some US$ 7.3 million has been received, leaving a funding gap of just over US$ 9 million.

    The following table indicates financial contributions received by donors:

    AS OF 1st OCTOBER 2003
    Income/Pledge (US$)
    UNICEF Saudi Arabia
    National Committee for UNICEF, Spain
    UAE, others

    The table 2 below gives a detailed description of the remaining funding needs in order to meet the 2003 appeal target.

    Financial Requirements (US$)
    Maintaining the Nutritional Status of Women and Children
    Improving Maternal and Child Health Care services
    Improving quality and access to education
    Preventing and counseling of psychosocial distress

    Some of the activities requiring immediate support under the ongoing 2003 emergency programme are given below, by sector:

    Health & Nutrition

    Conduct nation-wide awareness raising campaign to promote breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding, affordable nutritious food, supplementation and universal consumption of iodised salt

    Upgrading of 75 MCH centres with basic medical equipment and supplies e.g growth monitoring equipment, consumables, basic diagnostic equipment.

    Train MCH cadres of doctors, midwives and nurses on Integrated Management of Childhood illnesses/disorders (IMCI) in ten districts.

    Support community based interventions for IMCI, including assessment and training for the key family care practices in support of IMCI interventions. Preparation of IEC materials with simple messages on reinforcing positive key family practices in order to improve care at family level and modify health care seeking behaviour.


    Advocacy campaign to promote continuing education.

    Provision of school bags and uniforms, and of educational materials to socially weak families.

    Extending emergency supply to children affected by home destruction, indiscriminate destruction of infrastructure and loss of property during military operations.

    Psychosocial support

    Extending the psychosocial outreach project to all school-aged children in all governmental schools, restored Youth Clubs and sport activities in 5 cities most affected by the current conflict, benefiting a total of more than one million children throughout OPT.

    Expand the programme of "Prevention of children and young adolescents of non-peaceful participation in the current conflict" by means of creating peaceful alternatives and creating a conducive and nurturing environment in urban set-ups most affected by the current conflict.

    Child Protection

    Monitor and report on the situation of Palestinian children and women detained in Israel.

    Advocacy for the abolishment of administrative detention of children and for improved conditions in places of detention, including access to educational and recreational materials.

    Distribute relief items, clothing and materials for remedial education and recreation in the detention centres.


    UNICEF, along with other UN agencies, is participating in an Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory to respond to the emergency-related needs of Palestinian children and women in the OPT. As part of this framework, UNICEF is appealing for US$ 13,838,000.


    1 Although a number of needs assessment missions have already been undertaken, the lack of access to large areas of the Northern part of the country still prevents an accurate estimate of the scale of both needs and vulnerability. Nevertheless, the figure of IDPs at the time of reporting is estimated to potentially fluctuate between 40,000 and 200,000 -with over 120,000 having been supposedly reported from the town of Bouake, so far un-accessible to field visits-.

    Further details of the emergency programme can be obtained from:

    David S. Bassiouni
    Tel: + 972 2 583 00 13
    Fax: + 972 2 583 08 06

    Olivier Degreef
    Tel: + 41 22 909 5503
    Fax: + 41 22 909 5902

    Dan Rohrmann
    New York
    Tel: + 1 212 326 7009
    Fax: + 1 212 326 7165

    For further information on UNICEF, visit its website at

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