Elena Ponomareva-Piquier, Officer-in-charge of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was attended by Spokespersons for the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Economic and Social Council
Ms. Ponomareva-Piquier said that the Economic and Social Council was holding this morning a debate on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and that it would consider resolutions on that item later today.
Situation of Children in Gaza
Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa, speaking in a conference call from Gaza said that they had just given a press conference to draw attention to the ongoing crisis in the education sector in Gaza. The crisis was two-fold with, on one side, the enduring blockade and on the other the damage to the infrastructure following the recent crisis. The blockade had now entered its third year and had immensely impacted the fledgling education system characterized by overcrowding and untrained teachers.
The education system in Gaza was particularly victim of continued underinvestment, the inability to maintain existing infrastructures and the inability to reconstruct and assist the recovery process. Hardware, supplies such as ink and paper and other very simple material were needed in order to be able to have the school year starting next month, as it normally should, said Ms. Kaag. It was her fourth visit to Gaza since the ending of the hostilities and she could only reconfirm what UNICEF reports and those of other partners had been saying over again: that no proper reconstruction had taken place. The issue remained the lack of proper materials and continued acute shortage of basic supplies.
UNICEF welcomed that in recent weeks some additional supplies had been allowed in by the Israeli coordination authority. But this was not just enough when looking at the speed and the volume of the supplies, said Ms. Kaag. Palestinian society cherished education immensely and it was the best investment for the future of any society. Education was a right and not a privilege. It was important to advocate for that right to be respected. They were seeing plummeting learning achievements by subject and by age groups. Classes were overcrowded and the quality of teachers was not what it ought to be, as a number of them did not have the qualifications or the experience to deal with the teaching challenges they faced.